Skiing opens strong at St. Lawrence

The 2011 alpine and nordic carnival circuit kicked off at Whiteface Mountain near Lake Placid, N.Y. with the St. Lawrence Carnival on Friday and Saturday. Williams started the season with a combined fifth-place finish thanks to impressive alpine performances and a strong fourth-place finish atop rival Middlebury from the nordic team. UVM took first on the weekend.

Despite the snowfall of the previous week, the race conditions on Whiteface Mountain were excellent. “[The conditions were the] best I had seen in years,” alpine Head Alpine Coach Ed Grees said. The sublime conditions combined with some unexpected blue skies to make for a great weekend of racing.

The carnival took advantage of Lake Placid’s Olympic facilities, holding the nordic classic race at the ex-Olympic jumping complex and the skate race at the old Olympic biathlon range.

Friday held the giant slalom event. Geordie Lonza ’13 led the women’s alpine squad, placing 10th overall after two solid runs. Laurel Carter ’12 ended the day a few spots back in 15th, and Annie Leiter ’13 rounded out the top three scorers with a 20th-place result. This left the women in a solid fifth place on the day.

The men suffered an early loss in the giant slalom when co-captain Alex Reeves ’11 crashed on his first run, injuring his shoulder. Sean Cummiskey ’12 led the men in Reeves’ place, finishing 20th overall. Co-captain Jeff Putnam ’11 skied into 26th, while Will Hadden ’12 fought through rough second run conditions to end up in 27th overall. The men concluded the first day of racing in seventh.

Friday’s classic race featured a series of UVM and Dartmouth skiers, with Dimitri Luethi ’12 being the only other really strong competitor. The Eph finished fifth, while co-captain Keith Kantack ’11 and Mark Johnson ’11 followed in 10th and 22nd, respectively, and the men’s squad in third overall.

Kirsten Johnson ’11 led the women in their classic race with a 14th place finish, followed by captain Sarah Tory ’11 in 18th and Christina Knapp ’13 in 21st, which earned the Ephs a combined fourth place.

The women had an impressive Saturday, with Lonza skiing into fifth overall and Carter racing into eighth. Leiter also turned in a strong performance, moving up from 48th place to finish in 19th. The women’s performance was good enough to earn them third place in the slalom behind Dartmouth and UVM.

The men opened strong for the second day of slalom racing on Saturday: Good snow conditions and an easy course set led to a competitive first run, though the men would end up in ninth overall on the day. Putnam led the Williams men on Saturday, coming in 20th, with Hadden close behind in 24th – an impressive move up from his starting position of 54. Cummiskey had a difficult second run, leaving rookie Alex Jerred ’14 as the Ephs’ final skier. After a hike on the second run, Jerred finished the day in 34th place, scoring the first points of his collegiate career.

Captain Annie Hanson ’11 was enthusiastic about the alpine squad’s opening performance at Lake Placid. “It was really an inspiring performance, particularly from the girls this weekend. And with a few minor adjustments – really just a few tenths of a second per run from everyone – the guys should be right there too. We’re in a great place to throw in multiple top-three performances this year,” she said.

In Saturday’s skate race, the nordic women raced a 10k, with the men competing in a 15k. Tory turned in the fifth-fastest collegiate time. Following Tory were Maddy Wendt ’11, who came in 27th, and Kirsten Johnson, who finished in 29th, putting the Ephs in fifth at the end of Saturday’s races.

Mark Johnson led the men with a 13th-place performance, Kantack turned in a time good enough for 18th and rookie Isaac Hoenig ’14 gave a strong performance to finish in 24th. The men tied for fourth with the squad from Middlebury at the conclusion of the first day of racing.

The alpine and nordic carnival season is scheduled to continue on Saturday and Sunday when the men and women will compete at Sugarloaf Mountain in Augusta, Maine – the home venue of Colby. Williams will also compete in a full weekend of racing on Feb. 5-7 at the UVM Carnival at Stowe, Vt.