Following regional victory, the ski teams prepare for NCAAs

by Sabena Allen | 3/6/17 2:25am

With its strongest carnival season in years, Dartmouth’s ski teams are headed to the NCAA Championships.

The Big Green will be bringing a full complement of 12 skiers — three each from men’s and women’s Nordic and men’s and women’s alpine — to nationals. All four teams qualified more than three team members for NCAAs, so the final picks for nationals were made by the respective head coaches.

“Team selection is always hard for the coaches,” men’s Nordic skier Callan DeLine ’18 said. “Generally it’s just determined by the points list, which is how you’ve done over the whole season.”

The women’s alpine team is perhaps the strongest and deepest of the four Big Green skiing squads. Eight skiers competed in carnivals for the women, coming away with 10 podiums.

“Ten podiums is pretty strong, and you know all of them made some gains, so it’s pretty good overall,” women’s alpine head coach John Dwyer said.

Foreste Peterson ’18, who won the giant slalom at three of five carnivals she competed in, will compete at the NCAA Championships. Alexa Dlouhy ’19 and Kelly Moore ’18, each with three podiums on the season, will join Peterson at nationals.

On the men’s alpine side, the story of the season has been similar. Four men’s alpine skiers made the podium in the carnival season, and five of the team members qualified for NCAAs.

“It’s been cool to watch all of the guys competing at a high level week in and week out,” alpine skier Thomas Woolson ’17 said. “To have this kind of depth on a team is something that is pretty unique for us.”

Brian McLaughlin ’18 made the podium six times during the carnival season, including two victories each in the slalom and giant slalom, and will headline the men’s alpine group at NCAAs. Joining McLaughlin will be Woolson and Tanguy Nef ’20.

One of the headlines of the men’s Nordic season was the dramatic success of Fabian Stocek ’17, who won a race in every carnival this season and topped the podium in both events at the University of Vermont Carnival. DeLine noted that the Nordic team gave consistently strong performances this year.

“Some of the standout performances in the college season were Luke [Brown ’18] and Gavin [McEwen ’19] taking the team sprint victory [at the Middlebury Carnival] and [Stocek] and [Brown] going one-two the next day in the 20-kilometer skate,” DeLine said. “And then Dartmouth went one-two in the team relay [at the Dartmouth Carnival], so we had the strongest six skiers of the day, which was pretty cool to see.”

Brown will represent the men’s Nordic team with DeLine and Stocek.

The Big Green women’s Nordic team is sending Lydia Blanchet ’19, Abby Drach ’20 and Lauren Jortberg ’20 to compete in Jackson, New Hampshire. Each has three 2017 podiums to her name.

“We’ve had six girls in the top 10, six girls in the top 12 pretty much every race except for a few this year,” Blanchet said. “So, it’s just even if we don’t have anyone on the podium or on top of the podium, we’re still just a deep, strong team.”

This year’s 15-point loss to UVM at the Dartmouth Carnival was a close one. The Big Green still performed well, with Stocek placing first in men’s 10-kilometer classic and Drach taking second in the women’s 5-kilometer classic.

“It was definitely bittersweet,” Woolson said. “It’s been a while since we’ve been able to win a home carnival. We’ve always joked about it being the curse that we never really perform on our own hills.”

There certainly seemed to be a curse on the Skiway’s Thomas Trail during the slalom on the carnival’s second day. Both Nef and McLaughlin fell on their second runs, leaving Woolson as Dartmouth’s remaining hope at a podium spot. After a blistering run, it looked like Woolson had won — until video replay showed him straddling a gate near the bottom of the run, and he was disqualified.

The overall carnival performance “was kind of a realization of where our level is because we blew it so hard, and we still lost by” just a small margin, Woolson said.

Coming off a season with only one loss, the team is confident going into nationals.

“I think the team is feeling really good,” Blanchet said. “The team dynamic just is really positive and excited.”

Preparing for NCAAs has actually provided a breather for the team after six weekends of back-to-back carnivals. The two-week break has given the skiers more time to rest and get ahead on school work, according to Woolson.

They are still training, though for a shorter amount of time each day, Blanchet said.

The NCAA Championships differ from normal carnivals because Dartmouth will travel to the location days beforehand and have a chance to see — and ski — the course.

“[It’s important to] make sure that we don’t get complacent in free-skiing the hill or training on the hill, and that when it comes down to race day that we continue to race our game and be confident,” Dwyer said.

The depth on all four teams makes placing at NCAAs a definite possibility. Although high expectations bring pressure, the skiers believe they are handling it well.

Woolson compared the team’s mindset to that of an underdog.

Dwyer added that any pressure on the teams comes from their own desire to perform well, especially after such a strong carnival season.

The teams’ confidence is helped by the fact that this year’s national championships will be hosted by the University of New Hampshire because the New England terrain is very familiar to the Big Green. Dartmouth skiers are used to eastern conditions such as icy runs and have competed on the hills before. On the alpine side, the western skiers are more used to soft, powdery conditions because they get more snow, according to Woolson.

For the Nordic skiers, the low altitude could be an advantage.

“When NCAAs were in Steamboat Springs [Colorado] last year, the altitude has a big impact on how you ski and breathe and everything,” DeLine said. “So, I think with it being down at sea level, and just knowing the course and knowing the conditions out here, we can be better than some of those western skiers.”

The NCAA championship will be held at UNH from March 8 to 11, beginning with alpine and alternating with Nordic for the remaining days.