Dartmouth Chases Catamounts After Opening Day of Middlebury Carnival

Middlebury's Annie Pokorny takes the
home carnival win (photo: Cory Ransom)
HANCOCK/RIPTON, Vt. — The University of Vermont settled into its familiar position in the lead after the first day of the Middlebury Carnival, but Dartmouth College sits a close second, only 11 points behind, while host team Middlebury College is third, 69 points off the lead.

On Friday morning, EISA Nordic racers got to experience updated and modernized courses at the Rikert Touring facility in Ripton, Vermont.  In a few weeks these trails will play host to the Nordic races of the 2013 NCAA Championships, hosted by Middlebury College.

Snow was thin and rapidly disappearing at lower elevations during the week in the village of Middlebury, but a new snowmaking system and the benefit of being nestled high in the Green Mountains kept enough coverage at Rikert to hold races on the originally-planned courses.

Temperatures near freezing and changing snow made for a tough kick-waxing day, with klister wax and 'zero' skis both in play. Conditions from ice to loose snow and slush were present on varying parts of the course, so finding the right skis for the full loop was a challenge.

In the women's 5k classic, Middlebury's Annie Pokorny took home the individual victory at her home carnival. Pokorny was well clear of second place, as Laval's Catherine Auclair was next fastest at nearly 20 seconds back. Third place went to consistent classic skier Anja Gruber of UVM. Dartmouth’s Annie Hart and Vermon’t Linda Danvind-Malm rounded out the top 5, as the University of Vermont women took the top team score.

The sun poked through cloud cover as the men started their race, but conditions remained relatively stable. Middlebury's Benjamin Lustgarten, likely aiming to double-up the home team's individual victories at their own carnival, went out fast and led eventual-winner Sam Tarling of Dartmouth early in the race. On the strength of his powerful double-poling, however, Tarling made up ground on the second lap despite slick skis, and took the victory with a time of 25:36.7.

“I was getting some pretty poor splits early on,” said Tarling afterward, “but I guess I was able to turn it around in the second half. The second half I was just able to double-pole, and while I didn't have maybe the best kick I had really fast skis, so it worked out.”

The Dartmouth men had a 1-2 finish thanks to Silas Talbot, who pulled off second behind Tarling in 25:44.3. Vermont's Scott Patterson, and the EISA points leader, took third, Will Wicherski of Williams was fourth, while Ben Lustgarten of Middlebury was able to hang on for fifth. The Dartmouth men took top honors in the team score.

Down the road at the Middlebury Snow Bowl, alpine racers faced similarly warm snow conditions. In the women’s slalom, Geordie Lonza of Williams College, a podium favorite from the 2012 season, finally returned to form in 2013 to claim the win.         

“My mindset was that I needed to attack the whole way down because this hill is pretty easy and straight forward,” said Lonza. University of Vermont’s Kate Ryley took second and Dartmouth College’s Sara Kikut placed third.

On the men’s side, Vermont’s Travis Dawson, the EISA slalom leader, grabbed the victory. His impressive first run, which he won by half a second, put him in a good standing for the second round. The second run course was a bit trickier.       

“They played the side hill a lot and there were a few more combinations and tricky spots,” Dawson said. “You can feel how warm it’s gotten here today, the snow was a little softer and I knew there was going to be a groove, so I just stuck with it.”

University of New Hampshire’s Coley Oliver skied to second place and Middlebury’s Andrew McNealus took third to round out the podium.

Racing continues on Saturday with the giant slalom races at the Middlebury Snow Bowl and skate races at the Rikert Nordic Center.

Complete individual and team scoring available here

Gabbi Hall and Adam Terko contributed to this report


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