Nordic and alpine fifth overall

Since the end of Winter Study, the Williams ski team has been travelling all over New England to compete in different colleges’ carnivals. This past weekend was Williams’s turn to host a ski carnival. Ten Division I schools arrived in Williamstown to compete in various races, including the slalom and giant slalom Alpine events, and the Nordic 10K classic and 5K pursuit.

The conditions on the first day, Friday, Feb. 18, were deemed ideal for both the Alpine and Nordic events, but Saturday’s conditions, affected by a new snowfall, were substantially tougher. Nordic races were held at Prospect Mountain, in Woodford, Vt., and Alpine races were held at Jiminy Peak, in Hancock, Mass.

“It was really difficult skiing with the new snow,” said women’s Nordic captain Helena Johnson ’00. “The course became really slow.”

The Ephs made a very strong showing at their home carnival, holding their own with such perennial powerhouses as University of Vermont, Middlebury, Dartmouth and the University of New Hampshire. The Ephs finished in fifth place overall with 492 points, 50 points behind UNH.

The weekend was especially successful for the Nordic team. For Friday’s 10K classic, the women’s team finished third, behind Middlebury and UVM; the men finished fourth, behind UVM, Middlebury, and Dartmouth.

The women were led on Friday by Johnson, who achieved a personal record in the 10K classic with a seventh place finish (36:58.6).

“It was a really solid race for me, and it was great to have all the spectators out to support us,” Johnson said.

Johnson raced with and was followed immediately by Melody Scheefer ’03, who finished eighth (36:59.2); only six tenths of a second separated the two. Next for the Ephs was Erin Graham ’02, who placed 18th with a time of 37:50.8. Katie Guernsey ’01 followed only three places behind in 21st (38:17.7). Completing the six for the Ephs were Hilary Hackman ’02, in 27th (39:25.5) and Jenny Wetzel ’02, in 32nd (40:27.4).

The men’s team also put forth a remarkable effort in the 10K. Its fourth place finish marks its second week in a row ahead of UNH, a team that has been in competition all season with the Ephs for a place in the top four.

“Beating UNH is always a goal for us, and it’s something we know we can do on a consistent basis,” said senior captain P.J. Spina.

The team was led by juniors Jason Lemieux and Noel Johnson, who finished back-to-back in the top 15 for the second week in a row. Lemieux took 12th place (30:48.5), and Johnson took 13th (31:06.0). Ben Connard ’02 had his fastest race of the season, finishing 17th (31:42.5). Close behind were Spina, in 21st (32:08.7), and sophomore Matt Holland, one place behind (32:09.5). Mark Walrod ’01 rounded off the Eph lineup, coming in 31st place (33:24.8).

The Nordic team also fared well the next day at the freestyle pursuit races. The men, typically stronger in freestyle races, finished third, behind UVM and Middlebury. The women, stronger classic skiers, still skied well to secure a fifth place finish behind UVM, Middlebury, St. Lawrence, and UNH.

The women were led this time by first-year standout Scheefer, who finished fourth overall with a time of 42:41 in today’s race. Scheefer was only nine seconds overall behind the third place finisher.

The team continued with its overall team effort, placing all six skiers in the top 30 (out of 57). Graham moved up to 16th place (:47:01), Guernsey moved to 18th (47:52), Wetzel moved from 32nd to 21st (48:26), Hackman moved to 21st (48:59), and Johnson moved down from seventh to finish 26th (49:56).

“This year, we’ve had great depth on the team. Some people have really stepped up, and we’re heading into Middlebury next week very confident,” said Johnson.

Strong individual performances by Scheefer, Johnson, and Graham next weekend could clinch a spot for them in the NCAA Championship in Park City, Utah.

The men’s team also exhibited a tremendous effort, marked by significant individual improvements. Lemieux skied fastest for the Ephs, finishing fifth with a time of 37:28. Johnson ’01 and Spina ’00 finished back-to-back in 11th and 12th, respectively. Johnson moved up two spots from 13th (39:00), and Spina jumped up significantly from 21st (39:16). Connard was 22nd (42:53), and Walrod moved up one spot to 30th (45:21).

“This weekend was very successful from both a team point of view and an individual point of view,” said Nordic Coach Bud Fisher. “Almost every racer moved up.”

The men’s team is looking to place the maximum of three skiers in the NCAA championships — Lemieux, Johnson, and Spina — who can all clinch a spot with high finishes next weekend at Middlebury.

The Alpine teams also improved upon a season that witnessed struggle early in the season. The first day, the skiers made a strong showing as the men finished seventh in the Giant Slalom, and the women finished sixth.

The men’s team was led by Brad Nichol ’02, who finished 13th with a combined two-run time of 1:38.45. Going into the races, Nichol was seeded 19th, and he was very satisfied with his results from Saturday.

“Today went really well for us. The snow conditions were perfect, and we all moved up from last week,” said Nichol.

Sophomore J.J. Hanley, who is usually neck-and-neck with Nichol, finished in 19th (1:40.33), moving up from the 31st seed. Hanley broke his hand at the fifth gate of the first run and was bothered by this injury for the rest of the day, yet he was still satisfied with his results.

Senior captain Kyle Goodrich finished next for the Ephs (1:42.64) in 31st, and Alfred Hunt ’03 moved up substantially, from 70th to 34th (1:43.89).

The women finished sixth, with another full team effort. Zoe Unger ’02 continued her streak in the top-twenty with a 17th-place finish (1:45.30). A three-first-year contingent followed next: Kate Leonard, Rebekah Levine, and Sarah Murray finished 21st (1:46.50), 22nd (1:46.67), and 23rd (1:47.02), respectively. Senior captain Gabriella Thiele finished close behind in 26th (1:48.40).

At the ensuing slalom races, the women maintained sixth place, and the men moved up a spot into sixth.

The men were again led by the duo of Nichol and Hanley. Nichol finished 11th with a combined two-run time of 1:36.00, and Hanley finished three spots behind in 14th (1:37.00). Hanley skied while nursing a broken hand, an injury that occurred Saturday during his first run. Hood finished next for the Ephs, coming in 34th (1:44.00), and Alfred Hunt was close behind in 38th (1:45.95). Goodrich was 46th (2:01.24).

“There were lots of great skiers out there today, and we were just trying to hold our own,” said Hanley.

The women had a bit of a disappointing day, as Unger and Murray did not finish their second runs, but the other skiers picked up the slack and carried the team to another fifth place finish.

Leonard was fastest for the team, coming in 20th (1:46.73). Levine, was next, placing 24th (1:48.68). Thiele finished close behind in 26th (1:49.33).

The teams travel to Vermont this weekend for the final races of the regular season in the Middlebury Carnival. Both teams are looking to earn trips to NCAAs March 8-11in Park City, Utah.