After a long summer and fall of training, it’s finally time for the 2020 EISA Carnival Season to kick off. While athletes have already been racing at regional and national races this winter, the beginning of the collegiate season will be the first time all eleven EISA nordic teams have gone head-to-head. With less than a week until the first carnival, here’s a preview of what to expect this winter.
Racing begins with 5/10k individual start skate races on Friday, January, 17th at Harvard’s first-ever carnival. 15/20k classic mass starts on Saturday will wrap up the carnival, which will be held on the newly renovated Dublin School trails in Dublin, New Hampshire. In an exciting development for EISA skiing, live streaming of the Harvard Carnival races will be available through ESPN+.
Next up is a trip to Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom for two days of combined University of Vermont Carnival/SuperTour racing. The SuperTour is the top level of racing in the United States, and brings plenty of competition for EISA skiers as well as many alumni who are now racing full-time. Friday holds a classic sprint, followed by 5/10k skate individual start races on Saturday.
Teams then head north for back-to-back race weekends in Maine. First up is the Colby Carnival on the Quarry Road Trails in Waterville. 5/10k individual start skate races will be held Friday and 10/15k classic mass starts will be held on Saturday, a slight shortening of the usual classic distance to keep the racing load manageable and athletes fresh for later-season races. Next is a trip to Rumford’s historic Black Mountain (host of the 1950 World Championships) for Bates Carnival - 15/20k classic mass starts on Friday and 5/10k skate individual starts on Saturday.
Following that is the Williams Carnival, contested on the upgraded trails of Prospect Mountain Ski Area. The Purple Cows are hosting a 10k classic individual start (equal distance for both genders) and 3 x 5k skate relay, which promises exciting and competitive head-to-head action.
After a breathless five weekends of racing, athletes have the next weekend off to recover and put finishing touches on their fitness. Then it’s on to the EISA season’s marquee event - Regional Championships, this year part of the Middlebury Carnival at Rikert Nordic Center. Good thing it’s a leap year, because every bit of February 28th and 29th will be needed to contain the fierce and electrifying competition - 5/10k classic individual starts on Friday and 15/20k classic mass starts on Saturday.
The EISA’s top fifteen men and sixteen women (with a maximum of three athletes per gender per team) will go on to compete for a national title at NCAA Championships in Bozeman, Montana from March 11th to 14th.
Despite graduating a strong contingent in 2019, the EISA is still stacked with talent. A strong group of returning athletes, combined with talented first-years, should make the EISA one of strongest regions throughout the season and at NCAAs. Deep fields and shallow snow can make it tough to predict who will come out on top each weekend, but we'll do our best anyway. These predictions are based on 2019 results, detailed analysis of fall time trials, recent performances in at U.S. Nationals in scenic Houghton, Michigan, and a lot of looking at ski team Instagrams.
In 2019, the University of Vermont Catamounts stormed to a 2nd place overall (combined alpine/nordic) at NCAA Championships. The Catamounts nordic squad looks just as strong this year, returning a team full of talented skiers with long resumes of great results. On the women’s side, junior Lina Sutro, who was a perfect 5/5 in skate distance races last EISA season and is fresh off a 5th place overall in the 10k skate at U.S. Nationals, will be leading the way. The Catamount men will be paced by senior Bill Harmeyer and sophomore Ben Ogden, who combined for seven distance race wins last season.
Down the road in Middlebury, Vermont, the Middlebury Panthers will be looking to continue their multi-season upward trend with a strong 2020 campaign. The women’s team is a well-balanced group that just qualified three athletes - first-year Sophia Laukli, junior Alex Lawson, and senior Annika Landis - to represent the United States at World Junior/U23 Championships in Oberwiesenthal, Germany. The team also adds Charlotte Ogden, whose parents must be thrilled on all the gas they can save now that all three siblings are competing in the same races.
The Middlebury men’s team has youth on its side, lacking any seniors but led by two-time NCAA qualifier Peter Wolter. New this year is Josh Valentine, who represented the U.S. on the Scandinavian Cup trip last winter. The group will be looking to make a name for itself and build on their 2019 Middlebury Carnival overall win.
The Dartmouth Big Green, racing out of Hanover, New Hampshire, are also poised for a strong 2019 season. The Big Green are led by Katherine Ogden, who was undefeated in collegiate classic races in 2019, including a second straight NCAA classic championship (she won both races at 2018 NCAAs.) Ogden was absent from Nationals in Houghton, instead racing the FIS Tour de Ski. The rest of the Dartmouth men and women’s squad is talented as well, having just qualified sophomore Callie Young and first-year Mara McCollor for the U.S. World Junior Championship team.
The rest of the EISA field is also filled with strong skiers looking to make a name for themselves this winter. The University of New Hampshire Wildcats will be counting on strong results from first-year Scott Schulz, a multi-time junior national champion. The Bowdoin Polar Bears will be led this season by NCAA qualifiers Eliot Ketchel, Ranae Anderson, and Gabrielle Vandedries. Colby’s Marin Coletta put in some strong performances at Nationals in Houghton and will be an athlete to watch as well.
Saint Lawrence will be fielding an experienced women’s team that will be eager to notch some strong results this season, while Saint Michael's has an exceptionally young team that could surprise some people this winter.
Williams will be paced by sophomore Isaac Frietas-Egan, who qualified for NCAA championships in his first season of EISA racing. The Bates Bobcats will be relying on senior Kaelyn Woods for leadership and strong results, particularly at their home carnival at Black Mountain. Harvard, hosting its first ever carnival, has a talented team including sophomore James Kitch, a 2019 NCAA qualifier, and first-year Remi Drolet, a decorated junior racer with international racing experience.
With just give days until the races kick off, get your snow boots (or computer chair) ready, gas up the tailgating grill, and pray any precipitation is of the frozen variety - it’s Carnival Season!