By: Caleb Horsch
The morning started with a scary site for racers and coaches. High winds put chairlifts on wind holds and endangered the status of the race. But, when coaches finally got on the hill, they discovered a hard surface that had locked up overnight. The near-perfect snow and dying wind meant a lights-out day of racing at Waterville Valley.
Stever Bartlett from Middlebury got the drill first, setting a fast, rhythmical set for the men. Cam Ciccone set the women's side for hosts Harvard with a high-speed, high-tempo course. Then, the men got right to work, getting a good warmup as they hiked from the top of the t-bar to the Slalom start. Oscar Zimmer from Dartmouth, coming in hot after his win in the previous day's GS race, delivered lightning-fast speed to win the first run. He broke up the 1-2 dominance of Mathias Tefre and Jagge Lindstoel, who have owned the EISA circuit Slalom races over the last two seasons.
Breathing right down Zimmer's neck was the aforementioned Mathias Tefre from the University of Vermont, who sat just six hundredths back. The short and fast run left margins close throughout the entire field, just 2.75 seconds separating the top 30 racers, and the second run cutoff was just 4.36. As a groove started to develop, athletes able to find and push on it were able to carry considerably more speed through the middle and bottom flat sections. But in the end, the hill and set were relatively easy, and full-charge skiing was a requirement for success.
Many girls from outside the first group took advantage of a rock-solid surface to move up on the run. Such was the case for Hanna Larsson Nathhorst from Plymouth State, who, from bib 18, won the first run. Caroline Jones, the leader of the Slalom standings with Allie Resnick skipping the series, was in second two hundredths back. Her teammate Justine Clement was also well in the mix in third.
Hanna Larsson Nathhorst (Plymouth State) - Stephen R Cloutier
Bill Reichelt set the women's second run course, undoubtedly seeking to give his girls the set they needed to find the win. His set, far different from the first run, offered little rhythm and little time for girls to get comfortable. Despite a trickier set, times remained very close throughout the entire field.
The Catamounts of the University of Vermont have been a force on the circuit this year, their depth has been impressive, particularly on the women's, and they have factored in every race to this point. They showed this anew with a 2-3-3 finish on the day. Moa Clementson, winner of the Saint Micheals carnival last week, sat in second, and Justine Clement and Caroline Jones tied for third.
Despite the UVM team's success, it was not enough to take the win from Larsson Nathhorst, who now goes back-to-back this weekend, which is sure to earn her EISA skier of the week honors. Hedda Martelleur from the University of New Hampshire finished fifth, and Sophia Tozzi from Middlebury finished sixth.
JP Daigneault set the second run for Dartmouth, attempting to help Zimmer find a second straight win. But, it was Cooper Puckett who performed the best for the Big Green skiing into second. Simon Strand from Saint Michaels got his first podium of the season after finishing in the top 8 in the first three Slalom races of the season. But, as many have learned, never count out Mathias Tefre. His dominant second-run performance was enough to take the lead by nearly a second, and when Zimmer could not finish, it delivered him his third slalom win of the year.
Cooper Puckett (Dartmouth) - Stephen R Cloutier
With Tefre's victory, UVM cruised to victory on both the women's and men's side of the day. The Dartmouth men finished second, and the Plymouth State women wrapped up a fantastic carnival to finish second. It could not have been tighter on the overall team side as Dartmouth held off the University of Vermont for their first win of the season.
After her win, Larsson acknowledged that this weekend "was above all [of her] expectations." Plymouth State attracted a healthy group of fans who made the short trip from Plymouth for the race. "I feel extremely thankful for the team who's always cheering for each other whether there is a great day like today or when the results are not what we wish for," said Larsson. Despite her fantastic performance, Larsson feels as though the team has more in the tank. "There was good skiing and results from multiple parts of the team, but I feel we have a lot more to give and are eager to show it."
Women's Slalom Podium - Stephen R Cloutier
Racing resumes next Friday with the Williams Carnival at Jiminy Peak. Ponchos may need to be broken out, but, the very best in the east will still come out to fight.