Nordic skiing opens up season

The Williams College Nordic Ski Team kicked off its season this past weekend at the Kingdom Carnival, a pair of races held Saturday and Sunday at Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom.

The team arrived at the Craftsbury Outdoor Center in Craftsbury, VT Friday afternoon under threatening skies. Usually blanketed by snow this time of year, Craftsbury was showing the effects of December’s snow drought. The track was set shallow along the gently rolling 5K loop, with rocks and various species of grass poking through at intervals. It was decided by the team that a few more inches of snow on the course would be definitely welcome; and snow it did. Beginning at sundown on Friday, the storm lasted all night, with more snow still falling as the team awoke to prepare for the race.

The 10K classic style race began with an absolutely insane mass start held on Big Hosmer Lake. An ominous cracking sound emanating from the ice below greeted the men as they lined up to begin the race. The ice held together, however, and they were off, sprinting across the ice only to bottleneck terribly as the wide expanse of the trail across the ice met with the narrow race course at a 90 degree angle. The skiers clashed in an audible battle of skis and poles, resulting in several poles being snapped in half, and one Middlebury skier losing most of one of his bindings. Although the start proved to be the most difficult part of the race, several Williams skiers would emerge from the bottleneck to post some strong individual results.

Leading the way for the Williams men was Topher Sabot ’99, finishing in 11th place overall. Close behind in 12th was P.J. Spina ’00, returning for his first American ski race after spending the fall in Norway. Nick Trautz ’99 followed in 20th place, with Mark Walrod ’01 in 24th, Noel Johnson ’01 in 29th and Matt Holland ’02 in 33rd. According to Sabot, “Conditions were challenging, and led to an interesting day. The race went well; it was good preparation for the upcoming carnival season.”

Charley Abernathy ’01 was the first Williams woman to cross the finish line, coming in 13th overall. Sylvia Englund ’99 followed in 22nd, with Helena Johnson in 28th place. Also finishing strong for Williams was Loryn Kipp ’99 in 32nd, followed closely by Erin Graham ’02 in 33rd and Jenny Wetzel ’02, returning from the wilds of Alaska to finish 34th.

Sunday morning the team set off for East Burke, VT to compete in Part Two of the Kingdom Carnival, a 10K skate race held at Burke Mountain Academy. The course proved to be quite tough, starting off on a winding downhill, and culminating in a mile-long climb. Soft snow conditions added to the difficulty of the course, with several of the corners becoming deeply rutted and rather difficult to navigate, to the delight of spectators lining one particularly challenging turn.

Such conditions proved no match for the strength of several of the Eph skiers. Leading the way for the women was Englund, finishing 13th overall. Second for Williams was Kipp in 17th, followed by Hilary Hackmann ’02 in 25th. Also finishing strong were Wetzel in 27th and Katie Guernsey ’00 close behind in 28th. Said Kipp, “The combination of the loose snow and difficult terrain made this one of the most challenging courses I’ve ever skied.”

The men’s results were not available by press time; it was agreed by those who watched the race, however, that the men looked good. It is expected that when results become available they will show several strong finishes by the Williams men.

The upcoming Bates Carnival will be the first intercollegiate carnival of the season, to be held January 22-23 at Black Mountain up in Rumford, ME. According to head coach Bud Fisher, the team “is a little behind because of the early lack of snow. We need to catch up to teams with more snow time; there’s still a lot of work to do before the first carnival.”

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