Laukli and Schulz reign supreme in UVM Carnival skate
Updated: Jan 26
Day 2 of the UVM Carnival featured 5/10k skate races on Craftsbury's South 5k course. The South course is considered by many to be tougher than the North course (site of last weekend’s racing) and uses many of the same trails but adds a technical descent and lengthy climb.
Saturday's high temps dropped to an overnight low in the 20s, setting up firm snowpack around the loop. Throughout the morning, temps warmed and the top layer of snow softened up into easy-skiing sugar, but things underneath stayed firm and kept conditions solid and fair throughout the day.
Today's races, with over 500 competitors in the combined Carnival/SuperTour/Eastern Cup field, are the largest non-marathon fields North America will see all season. To accommodate the sheer volume of racers, the women's 5k got an earlier-than-usual start at 9:00.
The top seeded skiers in the field were slated to start between bibs 20 and 40, and all eyes were on this tranche as they skied off into the forest and began attacking the course's undulating profile.
With thirty seconds between each starter, racers had to trust their efforts and splits from coaches on course to know how they were doing compared to the field. Just getting in sight of the skier ahead of you would mean at least a few seconds advantage at the finish line, while getting spotted by the bib behind you would almost surely mean they were beating you.
At the 2.5k split, UVM's Lina Sutro led the college field and was second overall. With 5 other EISA women within 10 seconds of her, the race was still very much undecided.
From 2.5k, the course climbs Biathlon Hill, before dropping down a long downhill and then climbing the extended stairstepper that is Screaming Mimi up to Coaches Corner and a rolling final kilometer. The two significant climbs make for a brutal second half that can blow up a race - or make one.
As the racers worked through the pair of second half hills, the top spots of the women's field rearranged themselves. Dartmouth's Katharine Ogden, wearing bib 31 and on a two carnival race win streak, finished in 14:08.8, gaining 12 seconds on Sutro in bib 32. Their 1-2 placings stood for a few minutes until Middlebury first-year Sophia Laukli, wearing bib 36, crossed the line in 14:06.6, nicking Ogden by just 1.8 seconds.
Despite being the sixth collegiate racer at the 2.5k split, Laukli powered up the climbs on the second half of the course and took the lead. "I knew I could make up time on the climbs, and had good splits off of the girls in front of me" Laukli said.
Laukli, who just missed heats yesterday in 32nd place, was elated with the first win of her young collegiate career. She explained she was disappointed to miss rounds but did her best to see the positive and take advantage of a restful afternoon to charge the batteries for today's skate distance race, her preferred competition.
UVM's Margie Freed took fourth place, while Middlebury's Alex Lawson and Annika Landis were 6th and 7th respectively. The Middlebury women notched 126 points and won for the second straight day, while the Catamounts combined for 120 points and second place. Dartmouth rounded out the women's podium with 111 points.
Laukli described the competitive yet supportive environment of the Middlebury women's team, which already has had two different carnival winners this season, as instrumental to her success, saying "It's exciting and motivating to have different skiers scoring for us each weekend." Laukli was third overall in the open race, which was won by World Championship bronze medalist Caitlin Gregg.
After the 220 skiers competing in the women's race finished, the lap lane was opened and the men prepared to tackle the ups and downs of a two lap circumnavigation of the South 5k.
Williams' Isaac Freitas-Egan, the day's second starter, went out hot and set the early marks for the collegiate field with a blazing fast first 2.5km, hitting the split in just 5:10.
By the 5k split, three collegiate skiers had separated themselves from the rest of the EISA field. UVM's Karl Schulz and Ben Ogden, as well as Middlebury's Peter Wolter, were all within five seconds of each other. The stage was set for a barn burner of a finish, with the three leading EISA skiers, and a contingent of SuperTour athletes mixed and mingled in a frantic race to the line.
At the 7.5k mark, Ogden and Wolter were nearly even while Schulz stood just three seconds ahead. With women's teams finished for the day and lining Screaming Mimi with cheers and music, the three ripped by, each racing alone but neck-and-neck against the clock, with just a few powerful pole strokes - or a single slip - separating carnival glory and a less-precious medal.
Schulz finished in 26:22.8, besting Wolter by 5.2 seconds and earning his second-straight skate race victory. Ogden was just 4.7 seconds further back.
Today's podium was stacked with frequent flyers, with Wolter earning his second second place of the weekend and Ogden following up yesterday's win with a third place. The Ephs' Freitas-Egan held on for fourth place, a career best finish.
UNH first-year Scott Schulz was gunning for his older brother and fell just short - but still notched the best result of his young career with a fifth place. Scott Schulz explained their friendly sibling rivalry, saying "It's great to be racing with my brother on the circuit and have both of us hitting our stride. We feed off of each other's successes and make each other race harder. "
The overall race was won by Ben Lustgarten, a 2014 Middlebury Ski Team alum now racing for the Craftsbury Green Racing Project. In the EISA field, the UVM men rode their double-podium to a win on the day with 114 points. Middlebury finished second with 101 and Bowdoin was third with 96.
Combined nordic scores for both genders and days are:
Full results, including open skiers and split times, are available here: