HANCOCK, Vt. — The EISA perennial favorite University of Vermont Catamounts have a race on their hands at the Middlebury Carnival. After a major shake up in the slalom races, Vermont holds a slim 11-point lead over the Big Green heading into the second day of competition. Carnival host Middlebury College is third, 69 points off the lead. The carnival is a fortuitous look into what the future NCAA Championships, contested on the same trails, might hold.
Ski racing is as much a mental sport as it is a physical one, and the winners of the Middlebury Carnival slalom capitalized on positive mindsets, solid snow and even the unseasonably warm weather.
Geordie Lonza of Williams College, who made five podium appearances in the 2012 season but whose best result this winter had been tenth-place until Middlebury, busted through a personal rut to claim victory in the women’s slalom.
“I had a good race in the Eastern Cup last weekend, so I just put that mindset down,” Lonza remarked. “I needed to attack the whole way down because this hill is pretty easy and straight forward,” she added.
Lonza was able to finally tune-out a problem many racers face: Over-thinking.
“I was trying not to think too much because I’ve been thinking way too much in my skiing,” she admitted.
The University of Vermont’s Kate Ryley took second and Dartmouth College’s Sara Kikut placed third, leading the Big Green to win women’s team scoring in the event. In a season that has seen numerous podium sweeps by the dominant Catamounts, it was a shining victory for the Dartmouth women.
On the men’s side, Vermont’s Travis Dawson, the current EISA slalom leader, cruised to victory in his first race ever at the Middlebury Snow Bowl. Dawson’s impressive first run, which he won by half a second, put him in a solid position for the second run where he doubled his lead despite a tricky set.
“They [the course setter] played the side hill a lot and there were a few more combinations and tricky spots,” Dawson said. “You can feel how warm it’s gotten here today, the snow was a little softer and I knew there was going to be a groove, so I just stuck with it.”
Dawson still feels pressure from the rest of the field despite his position atop the slalom standings.
“I mean it is so competitive. If you let off the gas, it’s easy to lose that,” noted Dawson.
University of New Hampshire Wildcat Coley Oliver skied to second place and Middlebury’s Andrew McNealus took third, rounding out the podium.
Despite the fact the UVM is in the lead at the carnival, Dawson sees room for improvement.
“Honestly, I think some of the guys are a little disappointed today,” he revealed. “Compared to previous years, we’ve had a little bit tougher luck in the slalom.” He was speaking mostly about the men’s squad as he clarified, “Our girls are amazing. You can’t say enough about them.”
Racing continues Saturday with the giant slalom at the Middlebury Snow Bowl where the forecast calls for more warm temperatures and partly cloudy skies.
Team scores following the slalom and classic events of the Middlebury Carnival:
1. UNIVERSITY OF VERMONT 454.0
2. DARTMOUTH COLLEGE 443.0
3. MIDDLEBURY COLLEGE 385.0
4. UNIVERSITY OF NEW HAMPSHIRE 351.0
5. WILLIAMS COLLEGE 286.0
6. ST LAWRENCE UNIVERSITY 245.0
7. COLBY COLLEGE 212.0
8. BATES COLLEGE 184.0
9. HARVARD UNIVERSITY 180.0
10. ST MICHAELS COLLEGE 121.0
11. BOWDOIN COLLEGE 97.0
12. UNIVERSITE’ LAVAL 94.0
13. UNIVERSITY OF ME-PRESQUE ISLE 59.0
14. BOSTON COLLEGE 53.0
15. PLYMOUTH STATE UNIVERSITY 48.0
16. COLBY SAWYER COLLEGE 42.0