By: Caleb Horsch
The Saint Michael's carnival had been delayed twice, originally scheduled as the second stop on the EISA circuit. The lack of snow and then dangerous temperatures pushed the race well into February. It was picked up by Whiteface and added at the front end of the Saint Lawrence carnival, scheduled for Friday and Saturday.
At first load, half of a foot of snow on the race hill, but a fantastic surface sat underneath that, with some work from the cat, coaches, and athletes, emerged. Cold temperatures made a reappearance, and snow plagued the day.
Justine Clement (University of Vermont) - Stephen R Cloutier
As usual, the women got the day underway, Bill Reichelt from the University of Vermont set the course, and it contained no real tricks. However, it was critical to carry as much speed as possible off the top pitch and nail the turns into Taylor's to be fast through the flat middle section.
Lydia Riddell from Colby set the opening mark, the Sophomore who has not been better than fourth this season has found her stride as of late. She held a slim lead over Carly Elsinger from Dartmouth and Justine Clement from the University of Vermont. The field dropped off considerably from fifth to sixth, with the sixth-placed skier sitting 1.63 seconds back. However, the podium was well up for grabs as the top 5 battled it out for the top few spots.
When the men's race started, the surface was down to the 'good stuff.' A hard surface emerged, particularly on the middle flats section. But, the top was developing some chatter that would challenge the field for the rest of the day. Oliver Morgan held off a trio of UVM skiers to take the lead on the first run. His attack of the top section delivered him a .12 lead over Mathias Tefre, GS leader Jagge Lindstoel, and Declan McCormack. Maximilian Haussmann from Plymouth State rounded out the top 5.
A slight adjustment on the first run set kept racers in the hard snow and out of the piles that had developed after the first run. However, it meant that racers would continue to contend with the chatter and a now slick surface on some turns in the bottom section of the challenge.
Going into the series, Justine Clement had only finished in the top 30 twice in GS, a sixth-place finish last week at Williams, and a 26th at Harvard. Today her GS season took a turn, as she moved up from third to win the race, an impressive result in difficult conditions. Elsinger slid into second, and Riddell slipped to third, still garnering her first-ever career podium.
Athletes had struggled with freezing rain that froze to their goggles for most of the day, but in the men's second run, it proved to be too much. Multiple men were seen attempting to clear their goggles mid-run, and their complaints from the finish made it clear it was a safety concern. Thus with only five men left in the flip, the race was paused and eventually abandoned.
Results from the first run were used as an NCAA qualifying race allowing athletes to cement their position in the standings. However, updates showed no real change to the board, with the same group of skiers maintaining their position inside the line. On the women's side, a great day from Gwen Wattenmaker improved her position, moving her up out of the danger zone. Alexandra Cossette maintains the last GS bid with one race to go. This will be the last chance for athletes to qualify in GS; you can bet they will be charging.
Carly Elsinger (Dartmouth) - Stephen R Cloutier
Elsinger spoke of the challenging conditions, "it was pretty slick up there today with some freezing rain," but was impressed and excited by her team's perseverance. "I'm excited for the next few days to show what we can do and finish off the season strong." They will get the rare double GS tomorrow, offering another chance for all.
The action starts at 9:10 with the women and can be followed live at https://livetiming.usskiandsnowboard.org.