As the much anticipated 2024 EISA Nordic season approaches, snow (and just a bit of rain) finally falls in the northeast. With early winter weather similar to last year (notably lacking the winter part), it can be easy to forget that the country's most exciting college race series is about to begin. This winter brings an all-star cast of athletes, coaches, and diehard fans: quality ingredients for cooking up some great racing. This recipe for success is completed with great venues supported by the hard work of race organizers, groomers, and countless other staff. Bullitt Timing returns for the 2024 season, providing live timing and team scores for every carnival and season-long rankings.
Skiers compete in the 2023 St. Michaels Carnival hosted at the Rikert Outdoor Center in Ripton, VT.
In 2024 EISA competitors in the Men’s and Women’s categories will ski the same distance for all races. This follows the introduction of mostly equal distance races in the 2023 season (ten out of twelve races were equal distance). The 2024 NCAA Championships are in Steamboat Springs, Colorado and for the first time also have equal race distances for both categories (7.5k Freestyle and 20k Classic). EISA racers this year will have multiple chances to race those distances and techniques during the season. This congruence will hopefully ease the tension from last year that the races in some carnivals were not the same as the NCAA Championships (which the six carnivals serve to qualify the athletes for). Prompted by having all equal distance races, the move towards 7.5k races from 5k races is also a change.
This season brings the first time an EISA Sprint qualifier will count as a qualifying race for the 2024 NCAA Championships. Points from the Classic Sprint will not count towards NCAA rankings but points from the Skate Sprint will. Exciting as last year's St. Michaels carnival sprint at Rikert Nordic Center was, this year the ante has been upped, promising even greater performances.
Photo courtesy flyingpointroad.com
EISA 2024 Team Previews
For Bates, women’s team captain Olivia Cuneo returns for a final season to lead the Bobcats to success. Following a solid 2023 season, she was close to qualifying for the NCAA Championships and was the top Bates skier in every carnival race. Cuneo and co-captain Eliza Skillings are joined by new “bobkittens”, first-years Izzy Glackin and Rosie Brown. The men’s team contains captain Cal Schrupp skiing for his senior season and top 2023 Bates scorer Mathias Boudreau-Golfman. Boudreau-Golfman, a junior, ripped a top ten at the Williams Carnival last season and is expected to continue the chase in Bobcat fashion this winter.
The Polar Bears have a solid team “with almost everyone returning from last year”, according to Head Coach Nathan Alsobrook. He is “really excited about” the team this season, which contains Bowdoin’s two NCAA qualifiers from 2023, Aggie Macy and Jori Grialou. Bowdoin did not send any men to the NCAA Championships last year, but Carson Williams and Zach Ennis were close. Alsobrook shared that the team is focused on the process, “training smart, taking good care of ourselves, and building good relationships on our team” and this will lead to the results they are looking for. He is excited about the group of incoming first-year Polar Bear cubs, which includes Mirra Payson who just qualified to represent the USA at the Youth World Championships for biathlon.
Racer for Bowdoin rounds the corner during the 2023 St. Michaels carnival (photo courtesy flyingpointroad.com).
Going into the season, Head Coach Tracey Cote expressed her excitement for the first NCAA qualifier sprint race this year. This sentiment is sure to be shared by junior Jack Young, who recently won the Freestyle sprint qualifier at the Period 1 SuperTour in Anchorage, AK. All three 2023 NCAA qualifiers from Colby, Young in addition to seniors Zach Nemeth and Gretta Scholz, will return this season. Cote shared that the men’s team has more depth “than we have seen” in recent years. First years for the Mules include Ben Lewis and Andrew Defore. The women's team is relatively young but contains Scholz and first-year Maddie Hooker who will represent Australia at World Juniors this year.
The Big Green always puts forth a competitive team, and this year is no exception. On the women’s side, 2023 Rookie of the Year Ava Thurston returns. Earning All-America Second Team honors and landing on the podium seven times last season, she will surely remain a force to be reckoned with. Juniors Emma Reeder, Nina Seemann, and Jasmine Drolet also return in full force this year with Drolet dropping a 3rd, a 4th, and an 8th at the recent Canadian Trials. Saplings of the pine tree forest include first-years Evie Walton and Adele Horning who are joined by sophomore transfer Amelia Tucker. Tucker raced at NCAA Championships for Harvard last season. Head Men’s team coach Brayton Osgood is excited for his team this year. John Steel Hagenbuch, 2023 Rookie of the Year, returns after skiing in the Period 1 World Cup. His teammates Luke Allan and Jack Lange are also poised for great seasons this year. Thurston, Walton, Seemann, Drolet, Hagenbuch, Allan, and Lange all qualified to compete in the World Junior/U23 Championships. Hagenbuch and Allan are also slotted to compete in the Minneapolis World Cup. With all this Dartmouth talent participating in international races, it will be exciting to see who steps up to fill their places on the team during the carnival weekends that overlap.
Racers from seven different EISA teams round a hill.
Head Coach Sam Benzing is “excited to kick off the carnival season with a large group of first-year students and some stellar returners”. Standout Harvard skier senior Remi Drolet was the 2023 NCAA Champion and has competed internationally for Canada many times, including at the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics. Drolet, the team captain, has podiumed many times at EISA carnivals and will return this year, likely remaining at the top of the competitive EISA field. Joining him is promising first-year Sam Gallaudet. The women’s team is led by captain Quincy Donley who returns for a strong third year to the EISA.
The Middlebury women’s team is the deepest it has been in a few years. Sophomore Shea Brams returns after a triumphant first season leading the Panthers. Brams had five carnival podium finishes last season and just pulled a 7th place finish at the 2024 US XC Nationals in the 20k Freestyle. Fellow sophomores Mica Bodkins and Maggie Wagner are also ones to look out for this year. Additionally, first-year Sofia Scirica qualified to represent the US at World Juniors later this winter. The Middlebury men’s team, despite being smaller than usual, is nevertheless expected to pack a punch. As captain Jack Christner puts it, “our strength lies in a small concentration of quality skiers”. Both 2023 NCAA Championship qualifiers, Christner and co-captain Logan Moore lead the Panthers into the 2024 season, with Moore boasting a 7th place finish in the 20k freestyle at 2024 US XC Nationals just days ago. Head Coach Andrew Johnson is very excited to get into the EISA carnival season and is looking forward to a winter of growth and experience-building for his young team.
Jack Christner from Middlebury finishes his sprint with an epic lunge during the 2023 St. Michaels Carnival.
For the Purple Knights top returners on the men’s team “include Junior Declan Hutchinson from Duluth, MN, and Senior Joey Del Toro from Jericho, VT” according to Head Coach Molly Peters, who is “so excited” about the 2024 season. She “can't wait to rock” the new St. Michaels waxing trailer. For the women, Senior Grace Castonguay should return to carnival racing mid-season, after skiing internationally for biathlon. Peters also shared that the first-year class is one of the best she has seen for the school. Purple “squires” this year include Zoe Devine and Fran Peterson, Minnesota and Wisconsin State Champs respectively. Henrik Wist from Trondheim and Michael Braennare-Gran from Haslum join the team on the men’s side.
One key returner for the Saints is Emma Strack, the sole NCAA qualifier for the team last year. She was 14th in the 20k Classic and 15th in the 5k Freestyle at the 2023 NCAA Championships. Fellow Junior Etta Leugers also returns this season, building on her past seasons for the Saints. For the men, be on the lookout for senior Colton Martin, senior Jax Lubkowitz, and junior Lucas Jenkin. The Saints top scorer graduated last year so there appears to be room for a new team member to lead the group. St. Lawrence also has a large first-year class that could produce some new names to watch for in the results this year.
Post-race joy and camaraderie typical of the circuit at EISA Carnivals in 2023 (photos courtesy flyingpointroad.com).
The University of New Hampshire Wildcats are fielding a strong team of 20 athletes this year. Head Coach Cory Schwartz is excited about the upcoming season and the “comradery and competition” his team enjoys from the EISA. The women’s team retains many of the strong athletes from 2023, including Jasmine Lyons, a 2023 NCAA Silver medal winner. 2023 Freestyle points leader Luci Anderson returns to compete for the Wildcats as a graduate student. They are joined by NCAA Competitor and All-East Skier senior Lea Wenaas and 2023 Junior Worlds competitor sophomore Hattie Barker. The group of powerhouse Wildcats will be one to watch this winter. For the men’s team, returning seniors James Schneider and Seth Wyatt in addition to juniors Roger Anderson and Nate Maybach will be looking to lead the team. Schwartz noted the men’s team was deep this year and ready to be competitive with other strong teams.
The UVM men won four of six carnivals in 2023, but the Catamounts have graduated some of their top skiers from last year. Head Coach Patrick Weaver is “considering this a good rebuilding year” for the men’s team and he is “excited to see which of the returning skiers steps up to lead the team”. These skiers include sophomore Petter Bakken, juniors Finn Sweet and Aidan Burt, and senior Bjorn Westervelt, who just returned from competing internationally for the US Biathlon Team. For the women, two competitors at the 2023 NCAA Championships return, Annie McColgan and Haley Brewster. Weaver is looking for them to “help lead the women’s side” of the team, which is filled with excellent skiers. Brewster was the National Champion in the 20k Freestyle Mass start and third in Freestyle Sprint at 2024 US XC Nationals (and will represent the US at the World U23 Championships). This early season momentum is sure to carry through the winter for the Catamounts, as they hunt down the rest of the EISA.
Lily Bates from Williams stampedes the hill in true purple cow fashion at the 2023 St. Michaels Carnival.
The Ephs this year are guided by captains Kennedy Lange, Hadassah Lurbur, and Jakin Miller. On the men’s team, Keelan Durham returns after a 15th place in the Freestyle Sprint at 2024 US XC Nationals. Durham also achieved a third place finish in the Freestyle Sprint at the St. Michaels Carnival last season. Rocking the cow alongside him are senior Henry Johnstone and junior Quinn Wilson. Junior Molly Blakslee is the highest-ranked Purple Cow from 2023 that will be returning this year for the women’s team. Williams is excited to host a carnival at Prospect Mountain again this season but it will be hard to find conditions more exciting than last year's deluge.
It's about drive, it's about power...some of the best pain cave faces of racers staying hungry in 2023.
(images courtesy of flyingpointroad.com)
With some traditional powerhouses appearing to be in rebuilding years, depth in some teams not seen before, and many individual star skiers returning, this season is not going to be one to miss. Will any underdogs infiltrate the jungle of the EISA, filled with big cats and “Big Green” trees? Only time will tell - follow along this season with live results from Bullitt Timing, EISA blog updates every race weekend, and on Instagram at @eisaskiing.