Skiing finishes 5th at Williams Carnival

Winter Carnival has had a longstanding tradition of bad weather and lift problems, often making the alpine and nordic ski races borderline treacherous. Exactly two years ago, the winds gusted over 40 miles an hour as a mix of rain and hail blanketed the course and racers. Yet, this weekend was no apocalypse. Instead, blue skies and virtually no wind allowed for a fantastic 93rd William’s Carnival. And it was not only the weather that made for a good home carnival, but the members of the alpine and nordic teams who led Williams to fifth place.

For the alpine team, Charles Christianson ’08 earned his fifth first-place finish in nine events in the Giant Slalom with a total time of 1:39.43. Eric Mann ’09 came in 17th and Tavis Moonan ’08 placed 26th, moving up from the 45th position.

In the slalom Christianson continued to lead the way, securing second place after a near catastrophic mistake on the second run. Mann placed 16th, while teammate Moonan also had a good day – ending up in ninth place, and moving himself into contention for an NCAA bid.

For his strong skiing, Christianson earned the Ralph J. Townsend award, which is presented to the Williams skier who earns the most points for the team. “It is a great thing, winning, but it is even better when it is a win that everyone can share,” Christianson said about winning the award for a second time. “I am only glad that I could help.”

Jennah Durham ’10 led the women’s alpine team in the giant slalom, finishing in ninth place after skiing two solid runs. Also in the giant slalom, teammates Kelsey Levine ’10 and Emily Porter ’10 ended in the 13th and 20th positions, respectively.

The slalom was a different story for Durham. After a fast first run Durham had some problems, hiking on the second run. However, it was again Levine and Porter who made their way into the top 20, earning 13th and 16th. They were followed closely by Annie Hanson ’11, who moved through the field from 55th to end in 19th place for the day.

The nordic squad also delivered one of its best performances of the season, with many racers achievers personal bests.

In Friday’s freestyle race the men’s nordic team skied well on their challenging home course, completing two 5k laps, which feature technical hills in the final kilometers that test each athlete’s fitness. Caleb Lucy ’11 skied a strong race to place 22nd, his best finish this season.

Alex Taylor ’10 continued his consistent season, finishing 27th and captain Sam Kapala ’09 took 30th to round out the scoring for the men. Other notable finishes for the men included Keith Kantack ’11, who took 45th, Mark Johnson ’10 in 49th and Evan Detheir ’11 in 53rd. Johnson caught an edge as he neared the completion of his first lap and broke the tip of his ski, setting him back several seconds as he paused to get a new ski from a teammate.

The women were led by Alice Nelson ’10, who managed to match her top finish of the season when she placed fifth in the 5k freestyle race. Kirsten Johnson ’11 placed 11th, only five seconds out of the top 10, and Ali Demarchis ’10 was 23rd, her strongest freestyle race of the season. Fiona Worcester ’09 placed 30th, Gabrielle Joffe ’11 was 35th and Emily Olsen ’09 took 40th place.

Family presence made a difference, as well. “It was great to race in front of so many of our family, friends and alums,” Demarchis said. “I think we performed well and definitely had a lot to be proud of this weekend.”

Saturday’s classic sprint relay format showcased the speed of the Williams team, with teams of three skiers each completing three laps of a 1.25k sprint course. Each lap took approximately three minutes to complete as racers headed out of the stadium into a steep climb and returned towards that tag zone on a rolling downhill with one sharp turn before double-poling back into the stadium. Racers faced the challenge of remaining warm between each of their three laps as they awaited their teammates in the tag zone.

In the women’s relay, the top team of Nelson, Worcester and Johnson took fourth place after battling for much of the race with teams from Middlebury and UNH. The second team of Joffe, Demarchis and Olsen placed 14th. In the men’s race, the team of Detheir, Kapala and Kantack took eighth behind the top team from the University of Vermont. The second team of Taylor, Johnson and Lucy placed 15th.

“I was pleased with how the team did this weekend,” said Kapala. “We skied well, but with some small improvements we have the potential to move up in our final carnival next weekend at Middlebury.”

Middlebury will host Williams at the EISA championships this weekend at the Middlebury Snow Bowl and the Rikert Ski Touring Center.