Men's Nordic team pins hopes on Brown, DeLine and McEwen
Last season, it was impossible to talk about the men’s Nordic team without mentioning Fabian Stocek ’17 in the same breath. On a deep Big Green team with several skiers who would be top point-winners at other Eastern Intercollegiate Ski Association schools, Stocek was in a league of his own, dominating the carnival circuit with eight wins in 12 races. As Dartmouth eyes the 2018 NCAA Championship, Stocek is the lone departure from team that represented Dartmouth at the 2017 championship and finished fourth.
Luckily for the Big Green, while Stocek was taking all the headlines last season, the group of skiers behind him was also racing at a high level.
The team displayed its depth Saturday as seven Dartmouth skiers finished in the top 20 of the 10-kilometer classic at the St. Michael’s College Carnival. The top three finishers in that race — co-captain Luke Brown ’18, Callan DeLine ’18 and Gavin McEwen ’19 — figure to lead the charge for the Big Green throughout the rest of the carnival season.
Brown arrived from St. Paul, Minnesota in 2014 to a team already crowded with talent. In his first carnival race, a 20-kilometer classic at the Bates College Carnival on Jan. 16, 2015, Brown finished 53rd. Future NCAA champion and U.S. Ski Team member Patrick Caldwell ’17 took second in that race. Stocek and Silas Talbot ’15 Th’16 both finished in the top 10 for Dartmouth, and future captain Oscar Friedman ’16 was in the top 20.
Brown placed higher in every following race his first season, including a fifth-place finish in the 10-kilometer classic at the Middlebury College Carnival on Feb. 13, 2015, where he crossed the line three spots behind Talbot and two ahead of Stocek. He did not have a better single performance in 2016, but he did earn six top-10 finishes. He fared better in his junior season. With four podium finishes, he was eighth in the EISA combined rankings and finished the season as the second-best freestyle skier in the East, behind Stocek. A ninth-place finish in the 20-kilometer freestyle at the NCAA Championships landed him on the All-America second team.
Now a captain, Brown looks to take over the spot as the men’s Nordic team’s leading point scorer. Following a difficult outing at this year’s U.S. Cross Country Championships, including a collision with a tree in the first race, Brown said he has focused on reshaping his attitude about success.
“A lot of times [in skiing] we are very results-oriented, and motivation comes from beating other people,” Brown said. “There’s better ways to view having a good race, not necessarily winning — winning is great — but pushing myself to my limit, skiing technically well and skiing mentally well, and then the results should come with that.”
Men’s Nordic head coach Brayton Osgood ’03 believes the Big Green captain has put his rough start behind him.
“He’s clearly got his feet back under him,” Osgood said.
Brown has two podium finishes in three races this season. He was less than nine seconds from the top spot in Saturday’s 10-km classic.
Along with Brown and Stocek, DeLine was the third member of last year’s men’s Nordic delegation to the NCAA Championship. DeLine led the way for the Big Green at the U.S. National Cross Country Championships, which Osgood said serves as a warm-up for the carnival season. Facing most of the top cross-country skiers in the United States, DeLine cracked the top 20 in the 30-kilometer freestyle and paced the Dartmouth skiers in the freestyle sprint and classic sprint. This season, DeLine finished 12th in the 10-kilometer classic at the Colby College Carnival and fourth in the same event at St. Michael’s, about 20 seconds behind Brown.
McEwen is the third likely Dartmouth point-scorer this season. He improved in classic racing in each 2017 carnival and claimed four top-five finishes in freestyle that same year.
Osgood praised McEwen’s performance at U.S. Nationals.
“It was a really good step forward for him from where he was last year against national competition,” Osgood said.
The Massachusetts native’s effort earned him a place at the U23 World Ski Championships later this month, but McEwen chose to compete with the Big Green at the University of Vermont Winter Carnival instead.
Although he did not compete at last year’s NCAA Championship, McEwen is looking to make the cut this season, especially with a pair of top-10 finishes at the Colby and St. Michael’s Carnivals.
The Big Green will vie with the University of Vermont all season for EISA supremacy. The Catamounts edged the Dartmouth men by 16 points in the Nordic portion of the Colby Carnival on Jan. 14. Dartmouth got the better of the Catamounts in the 10-km classic at St. Michael’s on Jan. 20 before faltering in the 15-km freestyle.
Moving forward, Osgood said Stocek showed the team what it needs to do in training to compete at an elite level.
“It’s not going to be easy to or really possible to think about replacing someone who had the season he did last year,” he said.
But with a deep roster and veteran talent at the front, Dartmouth should be in the thick of EISA and NCAA competition.
Weather makes for unconventional racing
While the weather has delivered good skiing conditions at Oak Hill all season long, other places have not been so lucky.
Rain and warm temperatures forced the cancellation of the classic races at Colby last Saturday. The freestyle races were skied Sunday on a shortened course, which Osgood said was challenging.
“It gets really trafficky, and it starts to sometimes become an issue passing and picking your line through other skiers if you’re on your first lap and someone else is on their third or fourth and going much slower,” he said.
Congestion on the Colby course didn’t appear to deter the women’s Nordic team. Katharine Ogden ’21 took second place in her first collegiate race, and Lauren Jortberg ’20 crossed the line in third just over 20 seconds behind her teammate. Sofia Shomento ’21 rounded out the scoring in fifth.
At the St. Michael’s Carnival on Saturday, racing on a short and relatively flat loop allowed competitors to forego kick wax and double-pole the course during classic racing, according to women’s Nordic head coach Cami Thompson Graves. In the 5-kilometer classic, Ogden again paced the Big Green in fourth, while Lydia Blanchet ’19 finished behind her in fifth.
With the men having an off day in their freestyle race on Sunday, the women shouldered the team points in the 10-kilometer freestyle. Blanchet was the second collegiate finisher in the 10-km freestyle as Taryn Hunt-Smith ’19 and Hyde finished in fourth and fifth, respectively.
Alpine teams finally race
For a while on Saturday, it looked as if EISA teams were at risk of completing just one carnival in the month of January. High winds at Sugarloaf postponed the Colby Carnival giant slalom to Sunday and threatened to end racing for the weekend. Poor conditions on Sunday would have pushed the conclusion of the carnival to Feb. 4, but thankfully, the weather cooperated.
Foreste Peterson ’18 won the giant slalom, sliding easily into her 2017 form. Peterson has now won four of the last five EISA giant slalom events she has raced. Her total time of 2:03.35 seconds was nearly a full second ahead of second-place Caroline Bartlett of Middlebury. Steph Currie ’20 was more than three seconds back in fifth place, and Alexa Dlouhy ’19 rounded out the scoring in 16th.
On the men’s side, Tanguy Nef ’20’s second-place finish was his second-highest career result on the carnival circuit. Brian McLaughlin ’18 took fourth, the first time in the last five regular season EISA giant slalom events that McLaughlin has missed the podium. Thomas Woolson ’17 was .85 seconds behind McLaughlin, and David Domonoske ’20 also cracked the top 10.
The University of Vermont held a narrow four-point lead when Nordic racing concluded last weekend. The Big Green gained 14 points on UVM in the women’s giant slalom and 10 more in the men’s event. When all was said and done, Dartmouth won the team competition by a 20-point margin.
The Big Green has now taken the team victory in the last three EISA carnivals and has won six of the last seven carnivals dating to the beginning of the 2017 season.