Dartmouth SL, against all odds
As I rolled into the Dartmouth Skiway parking lot this morning, I glanced at the snowcat parked near the mountain’s base: “Sure is early to be grooming,” I said to no one in particular.
And then I noticed the ski racers. A handful were crouched behind the cabin, high above the cat’s treads. Ten more trailed behind in a line, holding onto a rope as the cat lurched and started churning uphill.
“Ah, the lift must not be running,” I said, once again to no one in particular.
The whole apparatus looked simultaneously futuristic and prehistoric. Shiny metal and glass, bright red paint. But it also moved sluggishly, the athletes forming articulated joints of a long tail. It looked like a massive robotic horseshoe crab.
And so this was the name of the game for most of the day: High winds kept the Winslow Quad from operating for the better of the Dartmouth Carnival slalom. As a result, athletes rode — or were towed behind — the snowcat for course inspection and their race runs. Some hiked. Many were flustered. It’s not often a ski racer is so overtly uncomfortable on a ski hill.
I polled a few coaches and athletes on the situation, and Colby College Head Coach Danny Noyes put it well.
“I think today was abnormal,” Noyes said. “I think it was majorly challenging in a lot of different ways.”
In the face of this, how does one prepare an athlete to race?
“I think focusing on the snow conditions on this hill, and the course sets, and the factors affecting the race itself is better,” Noyes said. “For [the athletes] to get to the top, and to realize that this is still a race: fantastic.”
A bit of compartmentalization. A bit of rational thinking. Mix them together with a sunny day and a rock-hard surface. Voila! You’ve got a Carnival.
By the end of the race weekend, the Big Green had been upset on their home turf. UVM took top honors, 914 points to 913. (Just one point!) Middlebury College claimed third with 703, and Colby (644 points) claimed fourth. Williams College was fifth overall with 569 points.
Dartmouth’s Tanguy Nef won the men’s SL race handily. His combined time, 1:34.93, was nearly two seconds ahead of second place finisher Patrick McConville (UVM; 1:36.71). And he put on a show. As he rounded the final bend in front of the hometown crowd, he spun a graceful 180-degrees and crossed the finish line backwards — facing uphill to the cheering fans. The crowd roared.
Nef’s teammate Kalle Wagner (1:36.96) finished third overall, and their teammate James Ferri was fourth (1:37.21). While I’m at it: David Domonoske (DAR; 7th; 1:37.88) and Andrew Miller (DAR; 10th; 1:38.57). Not a bad day for the Dartmouth boys.
Saint Mike’s Guillaume Grand was the first finisher across the line who was not wearing green. He finished fifth in a time of 1:37.28. Middlebury’s Erik Arvidsson added some navy to the palette, claiming sixth place in 1:37.44. Rounding out the top-10, in a two-way tie for eighth place: SLU’s Carter Armstrong and Colby College’s Matthew Wilson (1:38.02).
In the women’s race, Paula Moltzan matched her early season SLU Carnival SL win. She fended off a Dartmouth sweep, her time of 1:41.79 bettering the Big Green trio hot on her heels. Dartmouth’s Ellie Curtis (1:42.16) took second (starting in bib 32!), and last week’s winner — Alexa Dlouhy — finished third today in 1:42.56. Fourth place was Claire Thomas (DAR; 1:43.04).
Dartmouth College Head Women’s Coach John Dwyer was thrilled with the finish, especially with Curtis’s jump from 32 to the podium.
“It was awesome,” Dwyer said. “I’m super-pumped for Ellie. Starting 32nd, finishing second. And, Alexa, to go out on the podium as a senior is pretty awesome.”
Colby College’s Sandra Schoepke (1:43.88) finished fifth today, her best posting this year.
I asked Danny Noyes how one goes about setting goals and celebrating finishes in the context of a field in which the top places are so often dominated by Dartmouth and UVM racers. He summed up his philosophy.
“I think a focus for any athlete is to set their goals higher than what’s anticipated,” Noyes said. “Sandy…[she’s] got to be gunning for those top-5 and those top-3 [finishes].”
Noyes continued, “She’s certainly in the mindset that she’s got to go [fast]: standing on the podium would be a great achievement, but it’s certainly an expectation for her.”
Schoepke seems to be on the right track. Before this season, she hadn’t cracked the top-10 at an EISA race. Today’s race marked her best career finish, just ahead of her sixth-place result last week at the UVM SL.
Behind Schoepke was Dartmouth’s Stephanie Currie in sixth place (1:44.26). Middlebury’s Lucia Bailey moved from bib 20 to claim seventh in 1:44.27, just one-hundredth of a second back. The UNH duo of Emma Woodhouse (1:44.41) and Genevieve Frigon (1:44.66) took eighth and ninth places, and Williams College’s Anna Bruce (1:44.93) finished 10th.
The grind continues next week, and it’s a doozy.
We’re making up Friday’s cancelled Dartmouth GS race next Sunday after the Middlebury Carnival:
Friday, 2/15: Middlebury SL @ Midd.
Saturday, 2/16: Middlebury GS @ Midd.
Sunday, 2/17: Dartmouth GS @ Dartmouth.
(Note: due to the cancelled GS races, SL scores were doubled in calculating overall team scores.)