UVM Carnival 10km classic recap
Bizyukova moves into third, then out of the top five, then Drolet jumps unofficially into the top ten, then the top five and it seems like she’ll stay there. Bizuykova’s back in the top five, then out, replaced by a SuperTour skier or two. For a moment, Drolet is unofficially in second. All are chasing Katherine Ogden’s time of 30:59.8.
Peter Graves, formerly the Harvard head coach and now a commentator for Nordic skiing, expounds this over loudspeakers, strategically placed by the start and finish line area, and down the hill near the team’s vans, trailers, and buses. He’s got quite the audience. Over 500 racers are at the course today, with extra bodies for coaches, parents, miscellaneous relatives, and volunteers.
The Craftsbury Outdoors Center is packed. The finish line is adorned with sponsors like PistenBully, and there are bibbed volunteers, officials, and media members hustling about the start and finish lines. It’s an altogether different atmosphere from the last carnival at the bucolic Sleepy Hollow. Today is more bustling and electric, but not without its own charm. The EISA skiers did well against the more crowded than usual field.
When all the skiers are finished and their times are recorded and displayed on the screens by the bib pick up, Ogden retains her lead, followed by a few SuperTour skiers. Jasmine Drolet, a Dartmouth skier, finishes as the fastest EISA skier, in fifth. Bizyukova also finishes well, in seventh.
On the second tier of the EISA podium, behind Drolet, is Anna Bizyukova, with a time of 32:09.3. In third is Erin Bianco with a time of 32:31.5. After the races at Sleepy Hollow, Drolet explained that it was hard to judge her back-to-back wins, as she was racing against new competition. After this weekend, Drolet’s success looks more like a trend than an outlier. This is only her fourth EISA Carnival day. All have ended in podium finishes, and three have been wins.
The men of the EISA also perform well against their own field of older SuperTour skiers. None cracks the top ten, but Finn Sweet, from UVM, finishes at eleventh, the highest of the EISA skiers. Just behind him, in second, is Middlebury’s Peter Wolter (twelfth against all competitors). Gregory Burt, from UVM, finishes third, and is the only men’s skier to stay on the EISA podium for both the freestyle sprint and the classic race (fourteenth against all competitors).
After his race concluded, but before the awards ceremony at 2 pm, Sweet stands in a shady off-course corner behind the bib pickup to answer some questions. Today’s time of 28:08.5 is good enough for a first ever carnival race win for the UVM first year. He gives some credit to the course, which he thought would be a bit soft after all the new snow, but he says, “actually firmed up nice and was near perfect.”
It’s also an especially sweet win, Sweet says, because he was racing against older athletes, athletes that he looked up to and learned from as a younger skier. He likes the big atmosphere of the carnival combined with the junior and SuperTour racers and all the extra competitors this provides. “Overall, I think it’s a lot more fun. You look at the start list and there’s more people to put targets on. More people, more fun,” he says.
After the last skiers step off the podium and the crowd of teams and spectators begins gravitating towards tailgating parents, UVM head coach Patrick Weaver stands holding a cardboard box emptied of its maple syrup awards. Weaver, in part, agrees with Sweet’s assessment of the weekend atmosphere. It’s fun to bring the entirety of the Nordic skiing community into frame for a weekend, but it will also be nice to return to a smaller and more closed off EISA-only carnival weekend.
“It was amazing to see the U16 all the way through the SuperTour skiers,” Weaver says. “I wouldn’t want to do it every weekend because you lose that carnival feel. But to do it once a year is great and helps keep them aware of where they stand in relation to other skiers, not just college skiers.”
Weaver also says he’s pleased with his team’s performance. They performed particularly well against the older skiers in the first day’s sprint, but still “crowded the top ten skiers” in today’s classic skate. UVM again ends the day on top of the team standings, with 518 points. Dartmouth places second with 436, and Middlebury places third with 336.
Though today concludes the EISA carnival, the races in honor of Bill Henchey continue tomorrow. Pursuit start freestyle races will be held tomorrow for men’s, women’s, U16 men's, and U16 women’s fields. Also tomorrow will be a citizens' 10k freestyle and two novice adaptive races.
We’ll be back next week for the UNH Carnival, but check back in before that for the EISA skiers of the weekend!