After a season filled with top-ten finishes as a squad, the Harvard skiing team sent two of its own to the NCAA Championships at Lake Placid, N.Y.
Senior Akeo Maifeld-Carucci and sophomore Rachel Hampton traveled just shy of the Canadian border to compete against the best in the nation this past weekend, returning to Cambridge with solid performances and experience under their belts.
“With Rachel…a lot of what we tried to accomplish in that first trip to NCAA’s is just getting used to the next level of competition,” Nordic coach Christopher City said. “It’s a much more competitive, very deep and talented field so I was pleased with her skiing.
“[With] Akeo, we missed a couple of opportunities,” he continued. “They were solid results definitely good enough to be proud of but I know he had higher goals going into that.”
This is the second time that Maifeld-Carucci has competed at the NCAA Championships after racing in Park City, Utah the year before. The Bozeman, Mont. native finished his collegiate career with solid performances in both the 20K Classic MS race and the 10K freestyle competition.
The senior started day one with a top-25 finish in the men’s 10K freestyle, crossing the finish line with a time of 27:10.8, just 0.1 seconds behind Dartmouth’s Fabian Stocek. Maifeld-Carucci was just less than a minute away from a top-five finish in what was a very tight spread despite having wax issues with his skis, forcing him to race with just one good ski after the first lap.
On the second day of competition, Maifeld-Carucci crossed the line with a time of 59:53.7 in the men’s 20K Classic MS, good for a 31st place overall finish and less than a minute away from the top-25 finish mark. The senior would finish with six total points on the weekend.
While Maifeld-Carucci was not able to meet the expectations he had going into the competition and now graduates, City nonetheless believes that the senior’s career and success will extend beyond his time in a Crimson uniform.
“I’m still really pleased with the way he skied there,” City said. “It’s the end of his career here [but] I don’t think it’s the end of his ski career…what a tremendous contribution he’s made especially over the last two seasons.”
On the other side of the competition. NCAA-debutant Rachel Hampton opened her competition with a 36th-place finish in the women’s 5K freestyle, crossing the finish line with a time of 16:01.1.
“I was supper happy,” Hampton said. “I really wanted to go to [Nationals] and as a sophomore kind of just test the water and see what I could do this year against girls that are really amazing…I think I went after it and I’m really proud of the way I raced.”
On day two of the Championships, Hampton clocked in with a time of 52:47.3 in the women’s 15K classic MS, placing her in 31st and just over a minute away from finishing inside the top-25. The sophomore was one slot away from finishing in a points-obtaining position, with the top-30 in every race awarded with points.
The two Nordic skiers would combine to give the Crimson a total of six points, good for a 21st-place finish and ahead of St. Olaf’s College and Bowdoin College. With the NCAA Championships now behind them, the team wraps up their season; while this season ends, the preparations for the next one begin.
While the team loses Maifeld-Carucci to graduation, Hampton hopes to use her experiences at Lake Placid to lead the team and return to Nationals with an even bigger squad next year.
“The team aspect is huge for next year,” Hampton said. “I would really like to see our girls team send three people to NCAAs…and pushing to try to get into the top-15. There’s no reason not to aim high, so we might as well go for it.”
—Staff writer Julio Fierro can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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