UVM Men and Middlebury Women dominate first day of Harvard Carnival nordic races
The 2020 EISA season kicked off today with 5/10k skate individual start races on the Craftsbury Outdoor Center's storied 5k course.
Carnival racing is always competitive, but the first race of the season seemed to bring an even bigger dose of nerves and excitement. Harvard, hosting its first-ever carnival, was particularly motivated to ski well on their "home" course, while the rest of the field was just as eager to spoil the party with an early-season statement. Collegiate skiers were joined by a few open entrants looking for a tuneup race before next weekend's UVM Carnival/SuperTour.
(Coaches name six carnival skiers per gender before each weekend, and only those skiers score for their colleges. Other elite skiers and collegiate skiers not named to their carnival team can still compete and appear in the results but are not counted in collegiate scoring.)
After plummeting to -10 overnight, the mercury rose into safe racing range by the time the first male racer started at 9:30. It remained cold all day, but strong sun and excellent snow conditions made the weather more than palatable.
Interval start carnivals are generally reverse seeded, meaning that the strongest skiers start towards the end of the carnival pack. Usually, this means the podium comes from the end of the field, but an earlier starter can set a time that holds up throughout the day. Today, Matias Oevrum of UVM set the pace early, putting down a blazing first lap of 12:03.
Oevrum's early mark was bested by a quartet of later starters - fellow Catamounts Karl Schulz and Ben Ogden, Harvard first-year Remi Drolet, and elite racer Zane Fields (a Colby grad and decorated collegiate racer.)
All five recorded lap times between 11:53 and 12:03 - setting the stage for a thrilling final lap where Karl Schulz rose to the top of the collegiate field to secure the third carnival win of his career (Fields finished first overall, 2.2 seconds ahead of Schulz.)
Schulz said his pre-race plan was to "not worry about the results, focus on skiing technically well, and staying relaxed." Along with fast skis from UVM's service staff, Schulz's race plan helped deliver him - and the Catamount men - to the top step of the podium. With Schulz in first, Oevrum in second, and Ben Ogden in fourth, the UVM men handily won the day.
The University of New Hampshire finished second, paced by Karl's younger brother and Wildcat first-year Scott Schulz. The Schulz brothers, natives of Lake Placid NY, are both junior national champions and skiers to keep an eye on throughout the season.
UVM Head Coach Patrick Weaver was happy with his team's performance, calling it "a really good sign" for the season. In a concerning sign for the rest of the EISA, Weaver also said that his team was generally stronger classic skiers - a fact that will be tested in tomorrow's mass starts.
Harvard's Remi Drolet finished third in his first carnival, a strong result for his team's first-ever home carnival, and UVM's Bill Harmeyer rounded out the top five in fifth.
Temperatures stayed in the single digits and the snow remained firm and relatively fast for the women's 5k. Despite the short race, skiers started at thirty second intervals, spreading out the field and making it difficult for skiers to see each other on Craftsbury's winding trails.
Middlebury junior Alex Lawson, wearing bib 42, stormed to an early lead, taking a 20 second advantage over the rest of the field by the 3k mark. Lawson crossed the line in 13:44.1 and was left in the hot seat while the remainder of the field finished.
Dartmouth's Katherine Ogden came tantalizingly close to besting Lawson, ending up just 1.3 seconds behind her in a time of 13:45.5. No one else could challenge the top two places, giving Lawson her first career carnival win.
Lawson, a native West Burke, VT native and alumni of the Craftsbury junior program, commented that "This is one of my favorite 5k courses and places to ski, so I was really excited to race at Craftsbury."
Ogden held onto her second place, followed closely by Middlebury first-year Sophia Laukli, who finished third in a time of 14:02.8. Not far behind in fourth place was Middlebury senior captain Annika Landis. The 1-3-4 placing earned 135 points, enough to secure the race win for the Middlebury women, their first such achievement in several seasons. Dartmouth, slotting into spots 2-5-6-7, finished second with 123 points, and UVM was third with 90 points.
Lawson, Laukli, and Landis all qualified for this year's US World Junior/U23 Championship team as well. Lawson is excited to be a part of such a high-performance team, saying "We have a great group and it’s really motivating to know that any of us could be scoring for the team on any given day. I’m really excited to see what we can do as a team for the rest of this season."
Middlebury Head Coach Andrew Johnson was also pleased with the women's results and credited their recent success to "Multiple years of hard training, dedication to our process and our program and supporting and challenging each other."
Several non-carnival athletes also placed in the overall top-10, including Liz Guiney and Kaitlyn Miller of the Crafsbury Green Racing Project and Abigail Drach and Callie Young of the Dartmouth Ski Team.
In combined nordic scores, UVM leads with 228 points, Middlebury is 2nd with 215 points, and Dartmouth rounds out the podium with 206 points.
And remember, tomorrow's races can be streamed on ESPN+. Subscriptions for ESPN+ are $4.99 per month, and the carnival race can be viewed by subscribing for January only.
The direct link for the live stream is: