Skiing teams earn top honors in Nordic Championships

by Mark Cui | 1/19/17 2:05am

From Jan. 7 to 12, the Dartmouth skiing teams began their official seasons with a superb performance at the Nordic U.S. National Championships in Midway, Utah. Combining both the men’s and women’s total points, the team took top honors in a competition that featured 22 schools, including powerhouses from Utah, Denver, Michigan and Colorado.

Abby Drach ’20 led the way in the 10-kilometer women’s freestyle with a 32nd-place finish in 29:21.2. Lauren Jortberg ’20 finished second among the Dartmouth skiers, taking 44th place overall. The other five Dartmouth Nordic members finished in 56th, 67th, 89th, 94th and 142nd out of a total of 248 participants.

Jortberg and Lydia Blanchet ’19 led the Big Green in the women’s classic sprint on Jan. 8 with 25th and 33rd overall finishes overall, respectively.

The three freshmen on the women’s cross-country team, Drach, Jortberg and Leah Brams ’20, faced high expectations coming in. In particular, Jortberg and Drach, were chosen to represent the U.S. junior team as an official member and an alternate, respectively, at the FIS International Ski Federation World Junior/U23 Nordic Championships beginning on Jan. 30.

The freshmen on the women’s Nordic team have already garnered praise from their veteran teammates, as Blanchet described the new members as an “awesome crop of freshman women who have been skiing really well.”

Blanchet also added that the team looks to continue building a positive culture that will be crucial for its long-term success.

“We [hope to] continue to perpetuate the culture we’ve been working on for the last year since I’ve been here which is definitely a culture of dedication to the sport, showing up to practice on time and training hard, and also being really supportive of each other,” Blanchet said.

The emphasis on culture has already led to a welcoming and positive environment despite the fierce competition for limited spots, particularly during the carnival season.

“We have a lot of girls competing for the six slots on the carnival team, but there’s pretty much no animosity between members of the team, which leads to just a really positive, awesome team environment where everyone is able to do their best and be their best,” Blanchet said. “Everyone on the team is a strong skier, and I think on any given day, pretty much any girl on the team could be in those top six slots.”

The men’s Nordic team also performed exceptionally during the competition. On day one, which saw the 15-kilometer men’s freestyle, Callan DeLine ’18 placed 17th with a 36.23.0 and Luke Brown ’18 followed closed behind with a 36.23.3 to finish in 19th out of 306 participants. The final two Dartmouth men’s cross-country skiing members finished in 45th and 97th.

On Jan. 8 and Jan. 12, DeLine and Brown continued to have strong performances in the men’s classic sprint and freestyle sprint. DeLine finished 12th and 24th, respectively, while Brown finished 19th and 34th, respectively. DeLine was also selected to represent the U.S. junior team in the U-23 category.

Unlike the Nordic teams, the alpine teams have yet to compete in a large-scale national event, but the teams have high expectations and goals for their upcoming season. Women’s alpine coach John Dwyer seeks to improve an already solid overall performance from last season.

“This year’s women’s team has the ability to be the best in the country. Our goal is to be the most prepared team in the country, through good quality training and racing,” Dwyer wrote in an email statement. “We can top last year’s fifth place at NCAA’s by skiing to the best of our ability and landing on the podium, which for this group of girls is very realistic. On any given day any member of the team can jump ahead and set the pace for the day’s training, continuing to raise the bar for everyone on the team.”

According to Dwyer, any member of the team has the potential jump ahead and set the pace for the day’s training, challenging each of her teammates. He looks forward to the Dartmouth Carnival on Feb. 10 to 11 as a good test and potential milestone for the team.

“Our focal points are to win every carnival this year and to have at least two girls on the podium in each event and to have all six competitors in the top ten,” Dwyer wrote. “The Dartmouth Carnival is obviously a special event for us, and we would love to show the College why this team is so good.”

Men’s alpine coach Peter Dodge shared similar aspirations for his team.

“Our long-range goal is to recapture an NCAA title as a ski team here, which we did in 2007,” Dodge said. “Our [short-term] goal is to be the top team in the Eastern Intercollegiate Ski Association and to win some individual titles or team event titles at nationals.”

For the team to be successful, Dodge noted that the team must have depth and strong skiers.

“There’s a lot of depth in the whole country, so the competition is pretty stiff, but we have one of the deepest teams,” Dodge said. “For us to really be the best, we have to have a few of those guys, those strong skiers who have outstanding performances, so we’ve got to have a few guys who turn into stars, and we have [several] guys who can do that.”

Dodge cited Tanguy Nef ’20, Brian McLaughlin ’18 and Thomas Woolson ’17 as rising stars with great potential.

The alpine and Nordic teams will next compete at the St. Lawrence Carnival on Jan. 20 to 21 and the University of New Hampshire Carnival on Jan. 27 to 28.

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