Uncertainty is as much a part of skiing as the snow, so it was no surprise that questions regarding weather and race conditions almost threatened to cancel the Colby Winter Carnival races in Maine this weekend. Undeterred, Crimson skiers had some answers when the competition finally took place, as several athletes attained personal best times in the event.
The Harvard men’s Nordic team placed fourth and third on Friday and Saturday, respectively, in its 10K classic and 15K freestyle races. The women’s team placed fifth and 11th in its 5K classic and 10K freestyle competitions.
“It was the first carnival which we’ve been building up to for a long time and [involved] a lot of hard work over the summer and the fall,” junior Akeo Maifeld-Carucci said “We were finally able to see where we’re at compared to the rest of our competition, so it was really fun to see how we’ve been doing. We performed very well which was exciting.”
The junior explained that the week’s weather conditions partially froze Colby’s stadium, requiring another venue to be used for the races. Therefore, the men and women’s second day races were shortened and were changed to individual starts instead of scheduled mass starts.
The weather changed during the carnival as well, requiring the skiers to adapt quickly from warm, sticky snow the first day to icy, fast conditions the second.
“On the first day we just tried to ski well and get in and out of the tracks on good clean snow that wasn’t chewed up too much,” Maifeld-Carucci said. “Today was the absolute opposite. It was colder than it was supposed to be overnight so it was really icy, fast conditions. It was fun getting both sides of the spectrum for our conditions; I think it was testing conditions but everyone did well.”
The junior finished at the top for the Crimson in both races, leading the team in sixth and fifth place. Senior captain Christopher Stock was not far behind, finishing eighth and 23rd in this weekend’s carnival.
Both Maifeld-Carucci and Stock ended last season as the first two alternates for the NCAAs, and are looking to race in the tournament this coming season, along with senior captain of the women’s team Jennifer Rolfes.
“Last year [Anthony Ryerson], Akeo, and Chris Stock narrowly missed going to the NCAAs, so they all came into the season having high hopes for that,” Rolfes said. “This is definitely the start of our intense season because we’ll be on the road the next five weekends, two races each weekend and most of those are qualifiers for NCAAs.”
Top finishers on the women’s side include Rolfes, who raced her personal best times on both days and finished 18th and 23rd in the two competitions. Freshman Maile Sapp raced a personal best as well, finishing 19th in the 5K classic.
“We were really happy about [the carnival] because I think the team had some of its most consistent performances in a long time,” Rolfes said. “Maile’s [placing] was really good for a freshman, and for the boys to achieve their team goal so early in the season was really big.”
The Harvard alpine teams did not fare as well on the weekend. The Crimson had two finishers from the women’s side and none on the men’s team in either the giant slalom or the slalom races.
“The snow conditions at Sugarloaf were really challenging,” senior captain Rebecca Nadler said. “It was very icy and bumpy. A lot of the races we came down feeling strained or uncomfortable on our skis; it was a different surface than we had ever trained on. With the challenging conditions some guys skied out of the course or lost a ski on the way down.”
Despite the challenging carnival for the alpine skiers, Nadler looks to the future and hopes to transition well into Harvard’s upcoming races beginning with next weekend’s UNH Carnival.
“I’d like to see everyone racing how they train and getting the confidence up a little more,” Nadler said. “I think results will come after that. I see a lot of good things in our training, and it can be pretty tough to replicate that in the race. There’s a top 60 cut off for the second run. Everyone on our team is definitely capable of that, but I think sometimes the race jitters get in the way.”
—Staff writer Orlea L. Miller can be reached at email@example.com.
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