The atmosphere was electric this morning for the first day of the Dartmouth Carnival, a Freestyle Sprint. Oak Hill made major changes to the race course and stadium set-up since the EISA last visited in 2022. Unusual for a sprint course, racers shot up a large hill right out of the start. A sharp uphill corner followed, then a long downhill took the skiers to the most technical part of the course: a 180-degree left turn. As the day progressed, the corner became increasingly icy, bordered by a heavy, thick berm. Skiers had to scrub speed as they navigated it. Finally, racers tackled a steep hill before popping back into the field for a flat finishing stretch.
Aaron Power of Dartmouth competing in the heats at his home carnival (photo courtesy flyingpointroad.com).
The Men's qualifier began at 10 am, followed by the Women's at 10:30. Keelan Durham (WIL) and Marielle Ackermann (UVM) posted the fastest qualifying times of the day respectively. In the wake of the qualifier, a bright midday sun emerged from the clouds and basked Oak Hill in light. The weather made early February feel like a warm spring day. The parking lot slowly became one large mud puddle. As the course heated up, so did the racing. Heats flew by in blazing glory until only six skiers in each category remained.
Jack Christner (Middlebury) and Cal Schrupp (Bates) putting the hammer down in the Freestyle Sprint heats at Oak Hill (photo courtesy flyingpointroad.com)
The men's final heat headed off first up the hill and fans waited with bated breath to see who would prevail. Heading into the downhill the athletes remained relatively condensed, led by Benon Brattebo (UVM) and Jack Christner (MID). Cresting the hill a second ahead of the field, Brattebo flexed speed and endurance ahead of his years. The 19-year-old first-year at the University of Vermont skated to a monumental win. Major moves made during the turn and final climb shot Keelan Durham (WIL) and Nicolas Beaulieu (LAV) into a fierce battle for second place, the Williams skier ultimately securing the runner-up spot by a ski length.
Benon Brattebo (UVM) claiming his first EISA victory in the Freestyle Sprint during Day 1 of the Dartmouth Carnival. On his left is second place Keelan Durham (Williams) and on the right is third place Nicolas Beaulieu (Laval) (photo courtesy flyingpointroad.com).
A tired but triumphant Keelan Durham is congratulated by his Eph fan club following an impressive second-place finish (photo courtesy flyingpointroad.com).
Nicolas Beaulieu was not the only Laval skier ecstatic about his third-place finish (photo courtesy flyingpointroad.com).
The women's final contained an absolute pack of UVM Catamounts. A Wildcat, Bobcat, and Polar Bear joined them, all jostling to assert themselves as alpha predator. As the skiers came up the last hill one BIG CAT had taken charge. Marielle Ackermann, a sophomore from the University of Vermont, ripped into the finishing stretch. Behind her, channeling absolute power, came Bates skier Olivia Cuneo. Putting on a burst of speed Cuneo dropped the rest of the field and attempted to catch Ackerman (falling short by just .3 seconds). Libby Tuttle (UVM) fought through the rest of the pack with skill for the third position.
Marielle Ackermann (left) finished victorious, upholding her first-place position from qualification through the heats. Olivia Cuneo (right) with the tank empty after a powerful second-place finish (photo courtesy flyingpointroad.com).
An emotional Bates team simply thrilled with the performance of Olivia Cuneo, a senior and captain of the team and today's runner-up (photo courtesy flyingpointroad.com).
Today's UVM champions, Marielle Ackermann and Benon Brattebo, with their assistant coach Brandon Herhusky (photo courtesy flyingpointroad.com).