Posted: Feb 01, 2020
The UMF Nordic team stepped into the "big pond" this weekend and turned in some very strong performances. The strong field included some former D1 and academy athletes and was a good indicator of our progress as we progress towards Regionals and Nationals.
Temperatures right around freezing always make for "interesting" waxing in Classic and this weekend at Mountain Top in Chitteneden, Vermont was no exception. Finding the right balance of kick and glide entails endless testing of Klisters and gives both the athletes and the coaches a good workout. Our final solution, which involved a klister no longer made (but much coveted), gave us the kick we needed to deal with the challenging 3 lap course on manmade snow with a dusting of new snow thrown in for good measure. Once the wax was picked each athlete had to test their wax and offer feedback about kick and glide, which had to be tailored for each athlete. We were fortunate to have good skis which let our skiers kick up the challenging hills and glide well on the downhills.
The Women started off the racing with three laps on a challenging 2.5 km course. Mullein Francis felt comfortable racing in her native state of Vermont and finished in 17th place out of 44 finishers with a time of 34:09. She was followed by fellow freshman Emily Eaton who placed 27th with a time of 38:06. These two athletes continue to improve technically in classic and show great promise for the future. They are adjusting well to the longer races in their first year in collegiate competition and are very receptive to technical suggestions which will allow them to ski faster and more efficiently.
Once again the Men continued to mix it up to see who will be top dog at the end of the season. Junior Isaiah Reid came out on top and finished in 12th place with a time of 24:08, only 24 seconds behind UMPI's Conner Nilson. Isaiah has closed the gap between the two athletes by 6 seconds in spite of the 50% longer race compared to the UMPI Invitational. Senior Connor Marland, with his trademark blaze orange hat, once again battled his way into second place for the team with a 19th place out of 64 finishers overall in spite of getting held up at the Mass Start. He skied a smart race and steadily picked off one skier after another. Hot on his heels was Junior Jason Labbe who was 22nd who managed to stay ahead of Senior Thomas Wing in 23rd. Jordan Fried placed 33rd and continues to improve with each race. The Men ended up 4th out of 12 teams, well ahead of perennial rival Cornell, and third when you remove UVM which also has a D1 program.
Sunday the racing switched to a 4 lap individual start 8.5 km Freestyle race skied in the opposite direction, which allowed for some great tucking on the fast downhill corners. More than one athlete went too straight into the turns and ran out of talent right before they ran out of the room. Alpine skiers aren't the only ones who can shred! The Men were led by Isaiah Reid once again whose graceful technique enables him to glide on a fast ski. Isaiah stepped it up one place from Saturday and ended up 11th with a time of 23:02. The battle for second place continued and this time Jason Labbe ended up ahead of the rest of the pack with a strong 25th place just a minute behind Isaiah. Connor Marland was hot on his skis with a 30th place finish, 28 seconds behind Jason. Jordan Fried ended up in 39th place. The Men were once again 4th out of 12 teams, and are excited about their progress.
Both teams continue to make technical progress which will allow them to improve as the season continues. Hopefully, the Women will be at full strength for Regionals with a full team. They continue to work hard every practice and are excited about their progress and are already looking forward to next season. The Men continue to be led by Isaiah Reid but the exciting thing, which bodes well for the next series of races, is the continual battle between the next 4 athletes. Great teams are always the result of the fire coming from the bottom of the team and the athletes pushing each other every practice.
One additional highlight of the weekend was watching the perseverance of Thomas "Mountain Man" Wing and Jordan Fried as they collected some great chaga on a birch tree after the race. Thomas claims it has amazing properties so we will have to see if it helps their racing!