Wednesday, February 17th was a dark day for the Williams College Nordic ski team. With the home race at Prospect Mountain only two days away, the conditions were far from ideal: trails a mix of hardpack and thin granular, and a start/finish area of solid ice. The team had been anticipating unveiling their secret weapon all season, code name “Bud’s Folly.” A wickedly steep downhill culminating in a sharp right hand turn up a steep incline, this section of trail would challenge even the best of skiers. On Wednesday, however, it was unskiable. If no snow fell before Thursday morning, the course would be changed, and Bud’s Folly would have to wait another year to send skiers flying into mattress-covered trees.
Nordic skiing is a sport where sometimes things just don’t go your way. Other times skiers travel up to Prospect Mountain on a Thursday afternoon to find several inches of new powder on the ground, perfect trail conditions and Bud’s Folly banked and ready to go. The 20K pursuit race was on, with the women and men skiing a 10K freestyle race on Friday, followed by a 10K classic race on Saturday.
Sylvia Englund ’99 led the way for the Ephwomen in Friday’s freestyle race, posting a 16th place finish. Loryn Kipp ’99 aggravated an old back injury falling on Bud’s Folly during the race, and was forced to stop at the 7K mark. Katie Guernsey ’00 was the second Williams finisher in 25th place, followed by Erin Graham ’02 in 27th and Helena Johnson ’00 in 28th. Elly Spensely ’01 rounded out the Williams women’s team, ending Friday in 33rd place.
P.J. Spina ’00 paced the men, finishing strong in seventh place after the first day of racing. He was followed by Noel Johnson ’01, who, according to one of his teammates “surprised the hell out of himself and his competitors” by blasting his way into tenth. When asked about his race, Noel Johnson commented simply that, “sometimes it all comes together.”
Jason Lemieux ’01 placed third for the Ephs, concluding the morning in 19th place. Ben Kamilewicz ’99 finished strong in 20th place, followed by Topher Sabot ’99 in 23rd and Nick Trautz ’99 in 24th. Englund, Kipp,Guernsey, and all six members of the men’s team are now focusing on the Middlebury Carnival next weekend, the last carnival of the season. Top 20 finishes there are necessary to gain enough points to join the contingent of Eastern skiers that will be racing at the NCAA Championships, which will be held the second weekend in March at Black Mountain in Rumford, ME.
In a pursuit style race, the finish times of the first race determine the starting times of the second; the starts are staggered, but the finishes are counted as though it was a mass start race. For the women, Englund was the top finisher, moving up one place to 15th. Graham had an excellent race, passing opponents left and right to move all the way up to 19th. Guernsey followed in 22nd, with Johnson in 23rd, and Spensely moving up to 25th. Said Graham, “I love pursuit races, because racers ahead of you are essentially getting a head start, and nothing motivates me more than to make up lost ground and the opportunity to pass people.”
Spina remained Williams’ top finisher in Saturday’s race, finishing in 11th place. Lemieux charged ahead to finish 15th overall, with Johnson falling to 17th. Sabot followed in 20th , with Trautz in 23rd and Kamilewicz in 24th rounding out the men’s team. According to Spina, “It was a deceivingly hard course but I felt great and I really pushed it up the hills. There were very few places to rest because you had to be on your toes on the downhills.”
In men’s B team news, Matt Holland ’02 powered his way to 15th place, his best-ever finish, in a junior national qualifier held at Grafton Ponds, VT on Sunday. Holland will be part of the team representing New England at the Junior National Championships to be held the week of March 8-13 in Anchorage, AK.