This past weekend, the Middlebury alpine and nordic ski teams returned to action for the first time since their historic carnival win on Feb. 16, finishing third out of fourteen teams at the EISA Championships hosted by Bates. The squad’s two biggest rivals, Dartmouth and the University of Vermont, stole the first and second place spots, getting a taste of revenge following last weekend’s narrow defeat by the Panthers at the Middlebury Carnival.
Alpine competition took place at Sunday River with harsh conditions chipping away at the Panthers’ overall speed. Nordic competition took place at Black Mountain in Rumford. While Middlebury usually finishes just a few points behind their fiercest competitors, the Panthers’ combined ski teams came out of the EISA Championships with 758 points, losing to Dartmouth (973) by a hefty 215 points and to the University of Vermont (965) by 207 points. Nevertheless, the team was able to deliver some promising results.
On the men’s side, the Panthers placed third outright in the slalom event. First-year standout Tim Gavett paced the team, completing his two runs in 1:52.98 to clinch the sixth overall spot. Next to finish for Middlebury was sophomore Justin Alkier, who was able to crack the top ten, placing ninth in 1:53.46. Senior Max Stamler was the final scorer for the Panthers in the slalom event, securing the 31st spot overall with a time of 1:59.38.
“This weekend’s conditions were extremely difficult and made it less likely for our entire team to be fast across the board because there was a lot more room for error,” Gavett said. “I think that our team has extremely high ceilings, and simply being able to ski fast and minimize mistakes will allow us to reach our potential and have the ability to consistently win carnivals.”
On the women’s side, sophomore Lucia Bailey once again proved her ability to consistently occupy top positions, crossing the line in 1:56.14 to place tenth overall. Senior Caroline Bartlett finished second for the Panthers in 1:56.47, which was good enough for 12th place. Rounding out the scoreboard for the women was sophomore Madison Lord, whose two-run time of 1:57.55 gave her a 16th place finish overall.
“In comparison to last week, I would say we didn’t perform our best due to challenging conditions,” Bailey said. “On a high note, we were able to punch some results in spite of the conditions. We ended the weekend qualifying a full team for NCAA championships!”
The nordic ski performances were nothing short of impressive, with first-year Samuel Hodges achieving a career best in the 20K classic with a time of 53:27. In the same race, the men’s team placed second overall. Sam Wood ’19 finished first for the Panthers and fifth overall with a time of 53:08, and fellow captain Lewis Nottonson ’19 completed the course with a time of 53:26. In the 10K freestyle race the previous day, three racers placed in the top eight including Wood, Nottonson and Peter Wolter ’21.
On the women’s side, junior captain Annika Landis led the team with a time of in the 45:55 in 15K classic and 13:47 in the 5K freestyle race. Following close behind Landis were Alex Lawson ’21 and Avery Ellis ’21, with Ellis skiing to the fastest 15K in her career at 46:24.
Landis applauded Ellis’ performance, pulling her into the last qualifying spot for the NCAA championship race. Additionally, she praised their consistent placement in the top three. “This consistency I think really speaks to the all around fitness of our team and our ability to dig deep and fight every weekend to give everything we can,” she said.
The Panthers will return to the slopes stronger than ever for the NCAA championships on March 6 hosted by the University of Vermont in Stowe, where they are anticipated to finish as one of the top teams. Middlebury has qualified a full team of 12 skiers for the first time since 2008, making the team one of six schools to earn this feat.
Landis has ambitious goals going into the weekend. “I think that Middlebury has the capability to earn the highest points of Eastern schools at NCAAs, especially if we bring the same determination, focus and energy to Stowe that we brought to Midd Carnival,” she said. “Additionally, it is a team goal to have an All-American skier (top 10) for men and women, alpine and nordic.”