Already a good team, Dartmouth skiing got better in 2018
Katharine Ogden ’21 was a women’s Nordic revelation this season.
Men’s alpine skiing head coach Peter Dodge ’78 walked up the stairs in Robinson Hall on Saturday night with a large silver bowl in his right hand.
“We’ve got some trophies,” said Dodge, with the understatement of a man who has been coaching collegiate skiing for 29 seasons.
Things continue to go right for the Dartmouth ski teams. With the 2018 carnival season in the books the Big Green proved that its strong 2017 season was clearly no fluke. Dartmouth equaled or exceeded most of its 2017 numbers in 2018.
The biggest improvement came in men’s alpine. After averaging just under 110 points per race last season, the men’s alpine team jumped to 126 points per race in 2018. Much of the credit goes to Tanguy Nef ’20. The Swiss national teamer made his presence felt last season with three podiums in the giant slalom. But he found a higher gear this season, finishing the year ranked first in slalom and second in giant slalom. Brian McLaughlin ’18, the top men’s alpine skier in the East last season, ended 2018 ranked first in the giant slalom and second overall. And Thomas Woolson ’17 remained a consistent top-five threat.
“I had a goal of qualifying three guys in the first starting group,” Dodge said.
Nef and McLaughlin finished in the first starting group — the top five skiers in the conference, who will ski first at the NCAA championships along with the top five skiers from the West — while Woolson landed one spot outside.
Nearly all of Dartmouth’s growth came in the slalom. The Big Green averaged 97.8 points per slalom race last season. For any other EISA team (with the exception of the University of Vermont), that would have been a strong number. For Dartmouth, accustomed to scoring well over 100 points per race, it was a disappointment. Returning to form in 2018, the Big Green’s average slalom score swelled to 124.8 points, helping the team pull away from UVM over the course of the season.
But the men’s alpine team is not the best-performing group of skiers in Robinson Hall. That honor goes to the women’s Nordic team. Tops in the East by a wide margin last season, women’s Nordic only added more talent for 2018. With juniors Lydia Blanchet ’19, Taryn Hunt-Smith ’19 and Emily Hyde ’19 as well as sophomores Leah Brams ’20, Abby Drach ’20 and Lauren Jortberg ’20, the Big Green already had an impressive carnival team. The addition of Katharine Ogden ’21 and Sofia Shomento ’21 made Dartmouth very hard to beat.
After getting over an illness that limited her in the first half of the season, Ogden has won five straight races including both contests at Middlebury. In the 15-kilometer mass start freestyle on Saturday, she skied with a group on the first lap, biding her time before making a break on the second lap. Ogden won by more than 30 seconds.
“It looked like she wasn’t even working hard,” women’s Nordic head coach Cami Thompson Graves said. “She has a good race head and she’s not afraid to go hard.”
Ogden will represent Dartmouth at the NCAA Championships alongside Blanchet and Jortberg, who both missed time to compete at February’s Junior World Ski Championships in Switzerland yet still gathered seven carnival podiums between them. Scoring 130.2 points per race, the women’s Nordic team was the most dominant Big Green squad on the carnival circuit.
In women’s alpine competition, a Dartmouth team heaping with talent finished the season neck and neck with an improving UVM squad. Foreste Peterson ’18, coming off her World Cup debut in October, continued to be the bulwark of the team. Like last season, Peterson was the top NCAA qualifier for the Big Green with Alexa Dlouhy ’19 hot on her heels. But to focus only on Peterson and Dlouhy would leave out the real story of 2018: the impressive depth of the Big Green. Of the top 15 athletes in women’s slalom and giant slalom, seven ski for the Green and White. Claire Thomas ’21 turned heads late in the season with a string of top-five giant slalom finishes. Kelly Moore ’18 did not crack the All-East first team, composed of the top five skiers, as she did last season, but she made the second team along with Steph Currie ’20. Meg Currie ’17 also continued to place well.
The Catamounts improved noticeably in 2018 thanks to a pair of impact first-years, Francesca English and Josefine Selvaag. Meanwhile, UVM’s Paula Moltzan won all six slalom races and vied with Peterson for giant slalom wins all season. But Dartmouth’s depth helped fend off the hungry UVM squad in five of six carnivals in women’s alpine.
The men’s Nordic skiers were outpaced by the UVM men this season — but only by a hair. Dartmouth reached a midseason peak at the Dartmouth and UVM carnivals, when the team grabbed three podium spots. The past two weeks brought slightly lower finishes, which head coach Brayton Osgood ’03 attributed to bad luck and low energy levels after a long season and academic term.
Overall, the Big Green averaged 109.6 points per race, the Catamounts 110.3. A few factors drove the shrinking gap. The improvements of Luke Brown ’18 and Callan DeLine ’18, seeded second and fifth in the East, boosted Dartmouth. At the same time, the departure of Fabian Stocek ’17 left a big hole that has only been partially filled. And the men’s cross-country landscape was less of a Dartmouth-UVM monopoly than alpine and women’s Nordic, leaving more points on the board for the whole field. It added up to a lot of back and forth competition as Dartmouth won the men’s Nordic competition in just two carnivals.
If this discussion has made one thing clear, it’s that the 2018 NCAA Championship has a lot of potential — and a lot at stake — for the Big Green. Eleven of Dartmouth’s 12 representatives to the 2017 NCAA Championships skied for the College in 2018. But next year, the Big Green will lose some big names to graduation: Peterson and Moore, McLaughlin and Woolson, Brown and DeLine. And Nef, though still a sophomore, may opt to make the leap to the European circuit.
Next season, the Big Green will remain a top ski program and will probably duke it out with UVM every week. But it’s not easy to rebuild an NCAA team with more than half of it gone. Dartmouth should hope that its seniors are ready to go out with a bang.