Dartmouth drops the hammer, and the field shuffles
When I stepped from my van into the knife-like wind of the Whiteface parking lot this morning, I thought, Oh no. Here we go again.
Last year we lost our first day of Carnival racing to high winds at Sugarloaf, and I was sure it would be the same scene today in the High Peaks of the Adirondacks. Before we even arrived last night, we were informed that the scheduled GS race had been swapped with the slalom (SL) because of the forecasted wind.
One coach was overheard in the lodge this morning expressing her concern before the race: I don’t understand, she said. Everyone is acting as if we’re actually gonna do this thing.
And ‘do this thing’ we did.
It was sunny and frigid, but despite the harsh weather it was a good day of racing. The race was held on Draper's, a New England classic with two flat stretches bookending an abrupt, steep pitch. And although the course sets were tough (ie. off-set gates at the main pitch's break), the snow was solid.
Dartmouth College finished well ahead of the competition, tallying 244 points to the University of New Hampshire’s 195. The fight for third was tight between three teams. UVM scored 170, followed by St. Mike’s and Middlebury, who were separated by just one point: 165-164.
In the women’s slalom (SL) race, UVM’s Paula Moltzan continued where she left off last season, winning the race (and both runs) in a combined time of 1:34.18. Emma Woodhouse of UNH skied to her first career podium finish, grabbing second in 1:35.37. And Dartmouth’s Alexa Dlouhy (3rd, 1:35.74) led a Big Green 3-4-5 sweep as Claire Thomas (1:36.34) and Steph Currie (1:37.08) finished in fourth and fifth, respectively.
One of the day’s highlights was Woodhouse’s breakthrough race. In past seasons, the junior had cracked the top-10 with a handful of ninth- and tenth-place results. Her best finish to date had been seventh. Today, though, marks a big step forward.
“Emma’s been skiing well all year,” noted UNH Head Coach Brian Blank. “She came into the fall super fit and motivated. I expected her to do well. Second place is a pleasant surprise. I knew top-10 would be no problem. Maybe top-5. But this is a really good result for her.”
Woodhouse’s leap in the results was one of many today, and hers stands out because of the podium result. But, breakthroughs can be found throughout the field. Her teammate Lisa Olsson (1:38.63) finished 9th after starting in bib 34. Anna Willassen (1:40.24), from St. Mike’s, finished 17th from the 48th starting position, and SLU’s Tarrah Price (1:41.24) jumped to 20 from 54.
The first races of the Carnival season are exceptional in part because of these sorts of shifts. For nearly a year, we’ve had a general notion of what typical Carnival race results look like, but when we join back together each January, a few things have happened:
1) Last year’s seniors have graduated and taken their Carnival points with them, effectively ‘thinning’ the field.
2) Off-season training has enabled some athletes to significantly improve their skiing (allowing them to take advantage of the ‘thinner’ field).
3) First-years join the field for the first time (with some exceptions), and, through the quirk of Carnival seeding that prioritizes Carnival points over FIS points, start farther back than they would at a standard FIS race).
As you can see, races like today’s can be ones of opportunity (or missed opportunity). The men’s was no different.
Dartmouth’s Drew Duffy won the men’s SL race in a time of 1:31.63, moving from bib 16 to the top of the podium. Guillaume Grand took second in 1:32.25, with Middlebury College’s Erik Arvidsson hot on his heels in 1:32.41.
UVM's Patrick McConville (1:33.95) finished fourth, but - notably - his teammates had a rare off-day. Spencer Smith (31st; 1:46.43) and Max Roeisland (34th; 1:48.65) were the Catamounts' next two scorers, and the men finished just seventh as a squad.
The major jump in the men’s results came from UNH’s Patrick McConville, who — just like his teammate Lisa Olsson, actually — finished ninth. He began the race wearing bib 40. Not to be outdone, SLU’s Jake Van Deursen took full advantage of the home turf and rocketed to 10th place from bib 61.
(Forgive me if I’ve dwelled too much on this theme. I like fast results and world-class competition as much as the next guy. But for everyone else — and there are lots of ‘everyone else,’ finishes like we saw today are often ones that stand out and stay with athletes, their teammates and coaches, for many years — if not a lifetime.)
And isn’t that what Carnival racing is all about? *cue sentimental music*
Check back tomorrow for the GS race recap.