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Tuesday, Feb 20, 2024

Nordic Skiers to Gain Momentum After Slow Start

Author: Andrew Zimmermann

Over the past two weekends the Middlebury ski team has kicked off its season with a fourth and a third place finish respectively. The nordic team has played an integral role in the strong early season start and looks to improve as the winter wears on.

On Jan. 19 and 20 the team was in Lake Placid, N.Y., to compete in the St. Lawrence Carnival, the first of the season. The Panthers finished third out of 11 nordic teams overall and showed some solid season opening performances. Colin Rodgers '04 finished fifth in the grueling 20 kilometer classic race in a time of 1:11:30.0. The tandem of Kate Whitcomb '04 and veteran Hillary Patzer '02 made some noise of their own with a sixth and seventh-place finish for the women in the 15 kilometer discipline.

Whitcomb and Patzer were not done however as they snatched a first place finish in heat one of the six kilometer two-person relay. Captain and veteran Megan Sands '02 and sophomore Berkley Leach added points to the cause with a fourth-placed finish in heat two of the same event.

The same course of events transpired for the men as Tim Weston '03 and Rodgers won a relay heat with Simon Issacs '03 and Tim Wisdom '05 cruising to a fourth in the other heat.

After a week of practice the team headed to Maine Friday for the Bates Carnival in which they placed fourth overall. The Panthers struggled at times in the individual events failing to place the normal handful of racers in the top 10. However, in a mixed four by six kilometer relay event, the Panthers finished third behind powerhouses Dartmouth and UVM.

The intriguing format of the mixed relay is being implemented by a conscious effort from officials and coaches to liven up the Nordic races from the sometimes-monotonous classic and sprint formats. Each week a slight variation on the relay or sprint races is planned, as Coach Terry Aldrich put it, "to keep interest level high."

In the 10 kilometer race for the men, Tim Weston, the newly elected men's team captain, slid to a 13th place finish, the best result for the men's team on the day. For the women's 5 kilometer race, Kate Whitcomb mustered a 14th place result with three of her teammates following suit behind her.

There was however one notable absence from the women's side at the Bates Carnival, that being Patzer, who was battling the flu all week and was unable to race. Her loss was significant to the Panther cause as Aldrich explained, "Whenever you replace a number one or two skier there is bound to be a large swing in points."

Aldrich however, does not believe Patzer's absence was the reason for a second week slump of sorts. "At this point we aren't where we need to be," said Aldrich. The nordic team has shown in the past a propensity to start slow and finish strong and the blueprint for this season so far is not different. The team also had a tiring preseason in which they traveled to Montana for intense racing.

Despite these facts, Aldrich says the team chemistry is good and that newcomers like Diana Johnson '05, who had to ski her way into carnival position, have been accepted and fit well with the team. With a new men's captain in Weston and the constant presence of Sands, the team looks to turn its cohesive nature into further positive results especially with the advent of a revamped set of team relay races on tap. Next week the ski team travels north to the UVM Carnival, which is practically home turf for them and much closer to the confines of Middlebury.