By: Caleb Horsch
The EISA regular season came to a close on Saturday with the Slalom portion of the Saint Lawrence carnival. As athletes scrambled to earn a birth to the NCAA Championships held on the same hill in two weeks.
The surface remained fantastic, helped by the decision not to groom the previous night. The Slalom hill at Whiteface features a long, flatter section where you must push as hard as you can. It can be argued that the race is won or lost on the top flats so any skiers looking to factor in the results must ski with aggression.
After the flat section comes the steep drop off of Draper's Drop. A steep and short pitch greets racers as they attempt to adjust their tactics. This challenging section, as the hill rolled over, took out many athletes in the field.
Oscar Zimmer (Dartmouth) - Stephen R Cloutier
The men got the action underway with a set from Andrew McNealus of UVM attempting to help one of the four UVM men's skiers with a Slalom podium this season. He was able to do just that as the Slalom points leader Mathias Tefre came down with a narrow lead. He was followed by EISA rookie of the year Oscar Zimmer, looking for his first Slalom win on the season after two top-5s. Third place went to Cole Palchack, also of UVM, whose impressive season has made him a factor in all of the Slalom races.
For the women, it was all eyes on Ali Nullmeyer, the Canadian skier from Middlebury with multiple top-10 finishes on the World Cup. Nullmeyer, skiing in her first carnival of the season, needed a win to qualify for NCAAs, a feet she was more than capable of doing. A trio of UVM skiers crowded the top 3 when the second group finished. Justine Clement, Caroline Jones, and Moa Clementson, who between the three of them had nine podiums and three wins going into the race, were 1-2-3. However, Nullmeyer put on a clinic as she took the lead over Clement by .31. Also of note was the skiing of Alexa Eliff from Dartmouth, who from bib 34, skied a lights-out top section to move up to 13th on the first run.
As the day war on, athletes grew increasingly tired from three days of intense racing. A long Slalom race with times close to a minute tested the racer's legs through the final turns. However, having three races on the same hill as the NCAA Championships will provide an advantage to the Eastern region.
For the second run, a faster tempo greeted the men's field with less distance set on the top flat section. However, it could not stop Mathias Tefre, who won the second run, to take the win by over half a second. Zimmer was able to hang on for second, his second second-place finish this season, and Palchack remained in third, adding a third podium to his 2023 campaign.
Cole Palchack (University of Vermont) - Stephen R Cloutier
On the men's side, the top 10 remained relatively intact from the first run, but that was certainly not the case for the women. A mistake from Nullmeyer left her having to hike, opening the door for Justine Clement to nab her first Slalom victory of the year. Hanna Larsson Nathhort from Plymouth State won the second run to move up from fifth to second, and Caroline Jones hung on for third, a distant one second behind her teammate Clement.
As celebrations ensued at the finish for the graduating seniors who were completing their final college race, attention turned to the NCAA qualifying board. For the men, there were few changes demonstrating the stronghold the top guys have had on the circuit this season. But, for the women, a fifth-place finish from Hedda Martelleur of UNH moved her up to claim the last slalom spot and gave UNH its third qualifier.
Justine Clement (University of Vermont) - Stephen R Cloutier
It's been a thrilling and entertaining season on the EISA circuit. The weather has challenged racers and coaches, but a nearly full season was still carried out. For those in the top 17, the collegiate season will extend for another few weeks, and for most others, there is still plenty of racing to come. Next season promises to bring even more excitement when the best in the east come together in January.