Alexander Nico races for St. Lawerence at the St. Michael's Carnival (photo courtesy of flyingpointroad.com)
The conditions in Lake Placid were cold and wintery; fresh powder coated a firm track as the temperature barely registered above 10 degrees. In a dramatic juxtaposition of conditions from last weekend at the Williams Carnival (in which a World Cup announcer accurately described participants as “drowned rats”), the atmosphere today felt like a true winter Carnival. The course was the entire 5 km race loop at Mt. Van Hoevenberg, a steep and challenging race track.
The winners on the women’s side today were the UNH Wildcats, with skiers Luci Anderson (1st), Hattie Barker (5th), and Lea Stabeak Wenaas (8th) skiing to the top result. Anderson was all smiles after cheering on the men, despite the freezing temperatures. “I’m feeling good, feeling excited going into NCAAs in a few weeks,” she told me. Anderson wondered how she will stack up in comparison to the western teams against whom she has not competed this season. “I have a lot of races under my belt,” she said confidently, “I’m just maintaining, telling myself to keep skiing fast and keep skiing strong.” The National Championships will be held on the same course as today in two weeks, from March 6-11th.
Placing second today by only 2 points was Dartmouth, with skiers Ava Thurston (3rd), Tatum Witter (4th), and Nina Seemann (7th) skiing strong for the Big Green.
Francesca Kitch racing for Williams during the 5 km skate event (photo courtesy of David Brams).
Third was UVM, with Haley Brewster (2nd), Elizabeth Tuttle (6th), and Waverly Gebhardt (9th) all skiing Top-10 for the Catamounts. A first-year on the team, Marielle Ackermann, placed 12th today. She made light of a difficult course, telling me that “Once you get over the hills, the downhill goes by really quickly and you’re at the finish.” Hardly a walk in the park, the course at Mt. Van Hoevenburg contains some of the longest and steepest climbs that skiers have raced on the circuit this season.
Charlotte Ogden races for Middlebury in today's 5 km skate (photo courtesy of David Brams).
Quincy Donley, a sophomore at Harvard, had fun despite the hilly terrain. “My strategy was to really work the transitions and not blow up on the first climb,” she told me. “It’s definitely cool to be at a historic venue like Lake Placid,” she said, an ode to the ski area’s Olympic past.
Placing first for the men was UVM, with skiers Jacob Nystedt (2nd), Finn Sweet (5th), and Bjorn Westervelt (6th) scoring for the team. Aidan Burt, sporting the signature UVM mustache and a black beanie, felt strong during his 9th place race today. “It’s one of the hardest courses on the circuit,” he said. His teammates cheering on the final hill made it one of his favorite spots on the lap. Having them there “made it a lot easier to go as hard,” he told me.
Dartmouth men took second, with top skiers John Steel Hagenbuch (1st), Jack Lange (4th), and Luke Allan (13th) bringing it home for the Big Green. Lange had a great time in the wintery conditions. “It was really fun,” he said. “It finally feels like ski racing out there. It was cold and snowy and super hardcore.” Lange didn’t let the hills get in the way. “I was focusing on staying smooth, and I got into a groove at the top of the lap each time.” Smiling and eager, Lange is looking forward to the mass start tomorrow. “Having solid tracks and getting out there is going to be really fun and fast,” he said, grinning.
Jack Christner races for Middlebury Nordic today in the 10 km skate (photo courtesy of David Brams).
Taking third today was Middlebury, with skiers Logan Moore (8th), Willson Moore (11th), and Sam Hodges (19th) taking a podium spot for the Panthers.
James Schneider from UNH pushed through a tough course to place 20th today. “It’s the hardest course in the country,” he said. “It’s a lot of vertical and the hills are hard with all the lactic acid.” However, Schneider didn’t let it get to him. “You could just get in the zone, put your head down, and get into a rhythm. If you’re on a man, you can just get locked in.”
George Gowdy is a student assistant coach for the home team, St. Lawrence. He was excited about his team’s performance today and was glad that he could help out with the waxing. “We had a great team performance today,” he said. “The next two years are looking good for St. Lawrence.”
The Dartmouth Wax team tests skis for the Bates Carnival (photo courtesy of flyingpointroad.com)
Tomorrow’s 20 km classic is a challenging and exciting culmination to the season. I talked with Dartmouth’s head coach, Brayton Osgood, about race strategy and team goals. Level-headed and clear, Osgood knows the hills are a mental game that his athletes can overcome. “I think the hard part about tomorrow is going to be respecting the course, but not being scared of the course,” he said. “It’s not going to be a fast race or an easy race.”