Monday, March 17, 2014

Craftsbury Spring Tour

A small but fearless crew represented Bowdoin Nordic at the Craftsbury Spring Tour last weekend.  Both Millers raced - there was also a tall lanky guy who looked just like Mac but was wearing an unfamiliar race suit, so who knows.  This was a 3-race event that included a classic prologue on Friday, a classic sprint on Saturday, and a 10/15k skate pursuit on Sunday.  The field was small but absolutely stacked, including a number of highly-ranked seniors, several top college skiers and juniors, and one Olympic biathlete - basically a mini-SuperTour.  Our crew posted fine results in the two classic races:  Kaitlynn 4th and 13th (7th qualifier), Hannah 8th and 9th (8th qualifier), and Mac 34th both days.  The cool thing about these races is that they were waxing their own skis - Saturday in particular turned out to be a very tricky day, so this was a job well done and a good learning experience.  Everyone skied well and gained some spots in Sunday's pursuit - no overall results that I could find, but for skate splits Kaitlynn was 4th, Hannah 8th, and Mac 35th.  Great skiing by everyone - really nice to see some of our skiers mixing it up with such a high-level field.

As we've come to expect, Deb Miller kindly provided some photos of the event:

Friday, March 14, 2014

NCAA Photos

Here are some photos from NCAAs, courtesy of Deb Miller:

Not a ton of snow at Soldier Hollow.

 Every team got a wax cabin, which was great.  We shared ours with Bates - they were wonderful neighbors.
Whether you're waxing for 2 skiers or 12 skiers, you can always make a big mess.

A pleasant musical interlude the night before the first race.

 Kaitlynn with our two intrepid kick wax testers.

Photographic evidence that Kaitlynn raced in a t-shirt without a buff.

 The team with some of the Bowdoin Nordic alumni who showed up to offer support.

 Alumni and parents - a great crew.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

NCAA Skate

We were lucky to end the 2014 season on an absolutely gorgeous day at Soldier Hollow.  It was sunny and warm, but the snow was frozen and fast, and it stayed fairly firm through both races - perfect for skate racing.  James and Kaitlynn both skied well and showed great tenacity.  James hung with the pack for a while before finding the pace a bit too fast - he dropped back but didn't stop fighting, and was able to pick up a couple places in the final kilometers to finish 35th.  The women's field went out at a furious pace, and Kaitlynn quickly decided that she'd be better off skiing her own race - she was well back after the first few kilometers, but she kept pushing, skiing smoothly and steadily gaining on the skiers in front of her.  By the end of the race, she'd moved up to 28th - a well-paced and determined effort.  Overall, a great day and a nice finish to James's and Kaitlynn's Bowdoin Nordic careers.  These two have been pillars of our program for a long time, and they've done a lot to make our team a better place.  Working with them has been a pleasure - I feel so lucky to have had the chance to coach them.  It's hard to imagine next year without them - they'll be missed!

One thing that's been pretty special about this week is the amazing support and encouragement we've received.  There's been a decent amount of positive press about our skiers' accomplishments, and we've heard a lot of kind words and good wishes from a lot of people in the past few days.  We had a great crew of parents and alumni helping out and cheering this week - pretty amazing considering that we're a long way from Bowdoin.  No one has helped our team more this week than Wilson - he's been outstanding as our volunteer wax tech.  It's been a lot of fun testing skis and waxing with him these past few days, and it's neat to see how far he's come in the last couple years as a professional coach.  One last thing that's made this week great has been working with other EISA schools.  Our wax cabin was in a small group with Colby, Bates, Williams, and Harvard - all week we've been constantly talking and sharing information in an effort to help each other have a successful week.  It's pretty cool to be part of such a supportive ski community.

So now the 2014 season is over for real.  It's been a great season - far better than I could have imagined when we all came together last fall.  I'm already looking forward to next year.  For now, though, we'll all enjoy a bit of a break.  A few folks will do a little more racing over Spring Break - I'll post updates about this and anything else team-related, including photos from NCAAs.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

NCAA Classic

NCAA 5/10k classic race today - I don't think I've ever been so nervous before a race in my life, and I wasn't even racing.  It was a pretty intense day - the usual frantic energy of a classic day, but ramped up because of the steadily changing conditions and the higher stakes of the event.  Fortunately, James and Kaitlynn were pretty composed, or at least did a good job faking it - they stayed focused and gave a great effort.  Both of them skied extremely well - they were moving with lots of energy, and they kept pushing hard the whole way.  Kaitlynn ended up 19th, with James 35th - solid performances against the best college skiers in the country.  Neither of them had great skis today, which makes their performances even more impressive.  I'm so proud of these guys - I just wish we could have nailed it for them.  I was lucky to have a great wax crew to help get us in the ballpark on a tricky and rapidly changing day.  Wilson Dippo '12 has been doing great work for us the last couple days, and Spencer Eusden '12 showed up today to lend a hand as well.  They tested a ton of klister combinations for me as the morning went on, which was super helpful - I would have been lost without their efforts.  Overall, it was a solid showing, and the great energy and effort bodes well for Saturday's skate race - can't wait!

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Rangeley and Utah

It was a proud day for Bowdoin at the Rangeley Lakes Loppet - Jackson and Hannah Miller won!  Very impressive showing in a grueling race against a quality field.  Our team has always done well in the March marathons, especially Rangeley, but these guys took it to a new level.  Jackson made a break partway through the race, knowing that he wasn't likely to win a sprint finish - he opened up a gap and was able to hold on for the win.  Hannah took the opposite approach - she took it out at a restrained pace and gradually picked off the competition, ultimately winning by a comfortable margin.  Alec also had a great race - he was fourth, not far behind Jackson.  Overall, a good effort by everyone - I'm really proud of these guys, and I wish I'd been there to watch it all unfold.  Much thanks to Deb and Ron Aseltine for hosting the team the night before the race!

I had a good reason for not making it to Rangeley - James, Kaitlynn, and I are in Utah for NCAAs.  We got up super early yesterday for our flight out of Portland - after a very long but smooth journey, we made it to our new home at the Zermatt Resort in Midway.  We went for our first ski today - there's not a ton of snow here.  It was actually a bit grim driving up to the venue - grey skies and brown hills, with lots of mud and slush.  The course is holding up well, though - there's a very tough base of artificial snow on the 5k race loop.  This is the backup loop - the A loop is no longer skiable.  Still a nice course with some fun twists and turns and many tough climbs, including the notorious Hermod's Hill.  The sun came out just as we started skiing, so it was quite a pleasant morning.  The next few days should be nice as we get both the skis and the skiers dialed in for the races.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Middlebury Carnival 2014

Sad but true - our last carnival of 2014 is in the books.  For Friday's classic, we were back to where we started the season - wind, rain, and klister.  Fortunately, we had some extra waxing assistance - Eva helped with testing and assorted other tasks, which really helped us get things sorted out on a chaotic day.  We found a decent solution for the men, and the whole team skied well - James got back on track with a 13th place finish, and Riley got stronger as the race went on, posting a career-best classic finish in 28th.  Things got more tricky for the women, and skis were mixed - good for our early starters, but draggy for our late starters.  Kaitlynn led the team in 18th - Shelby had a strong race, and Hannah Marshall did a great job of battling through illness.  I'm a little disappointed that we couldn't get the skis perfect for this one - we felt like we had totally nailed it as the race got underway, but things changed enough to slow down the late starters - kind of a bummer.  Still a good day overall for the team.

Things settled down nicely for Saturday's skate - beautiful sunny day.  The men settled nicely into various packs and then steadily moved up.  James hung around in the middle of his pack (around 20th) for a while before deciding to go for it entering the final lap - he went to the front and skied strongly to stretch out the group, ending up in 14th - a great display of fitness.  It was nice to see him ski aggressively in a mass start - not his usual tactic, but it was the right move for this race, and a good learning experience.  Riley and Jackson weren't far behind - they did an excellent job of working together to help each other stick with their pack, finishing 28th and 30th, respectively.  Putting all 3 of our scorers in the top 30 is something that we've almost never been able to accomplish, so this was a nice finish - the men earned an impressive 5th place team score for the race.  The women followed up with a solid performance of their own.  Kaitlynn and Hannah Miller ended up in the same pack.  It became clear pretty quickly that Hannah had something extra - she was skiing with the fire in her eyes, inching closer to the front of the pack - at one point late in the race, she was in 10th, just a few seconds from 8th.  As the pack broke apart, she dropped back a few spots, but still finished strongly, winning a sprint finish for 13th.  It was a fantastic effort and a super fun race to watch - it made me wish that the season wasn't ending just yet so we could see what Hannah could do with a few more races.  Kaitlynn was clearly tired and didn't have great skis, but she showed real determination and held on to finish 18th.  Shelby also showed great mental focus - despite breaking a pole and drifting to the back of the pack early in the race, she was able to get herself back on track for perhaps her best race of the season.  Overall, it was one of our best carnivals of the year - we finished 7th as a team, which is our best-ever finish at Regionals.  Nice way to end the regular season!

We had great support from the parents, as always, including a pair of fantastic dinners from Meg and Laurie Groves.  Thanks to all of the Bowdoin Nordic parents for their hard work taking care of our team this year!

The sad part of the weekend was the reality that our seniors have skied their last carnivals as members of the Bowdoin Ski Team.  James, Kaitlynn, Riley, and Alec have been the backbone of our team for a long time now, and they were a crucial part of our success this year - they've done a fantastic job setting the tone and creating an atmosphere of hard work and fun on our team.  It's hard to imagine next year's team without them - they will be missed.

Fortunately, it's not over just yet - although the carnivals are finished, there's still some racing to be done.  James, Kaitlynn, and I are headed out to Utah soon for NCAAs, and Ruth is taking the rest of the crew up to Rangeley for what has become a team tradition, the Rangeley Lakes Loppet.  No doubt people will be doing a few other races here and there over Spring Break as well.  Keep an eye on the blog for updates!

Here are some photos from Deb Miller, and a couple from Peggy Brown:

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Williams Carnival 2014

What a strange weekend!  The 2014 Williams Carnival almost wasn't, at least for the Bowdoin Nordic team.  With a big storm all across New England on Thursday, we made the difficult decision to stay on campus that night and drive all the way to VT the next morning before the race.  This meant an early wake-up and a long drive - with the leftovers from the storm still hanging around, it took us 5 1/2 hours to get to Prospect, with the last few miles being slightly hairy.  We arrived at the venue with 20 minutes to spare before the start of the women's relay - no time for a proper warmup, skiing the course, or much of anything else.  Amazingly, it all worked out.  Hannah Miller scrambled for the first team - she must have had some residual adrenaline going from the sketchy driving conditions, because she tagged off to Eva in fourth place.  Eva skied with great determination to keep the team in contention, persevering through a fall and tagging off to Kaitlynn in sixth, right behind fourth and fifth.  At this point, I thought we had a decent chance to snag fourth, but I was absolutely floored when Kaitlynn came flying out of the woods in third after a blistering anchor leg.  She held her position (and even gained a good amount on the Dartmouth team in second) to wrap up the first ever relay podium in Bowdoin Nordic history.  Absolutely stunning - I watched the whole thing in a daze, almost unable to process what I was seeing.  Such a great moment for our team.  The rest of the crew gave an equally great effort in the same challenging circumstances - the women's 2nd team kept battling and finished 17th, and the men were 12th.  A 12th place relay finish is pretty solid, and I'm really pleased with how this group skied, even if their performance was inevitably overshadowed by the women's heroics.

Saturday's classic race was another good one.  The snow kept falling - somehow the tracks were decently firm, but many of the uphills got chopped up pretty quickly nonetheless.  This, combined with the rolling topography of the course, made for a race with a lot of double pole and herringbone.  For some of our skiers, we made a strategic decision to wax thin and cold, in the hopes that fast skis would overcome any losses from marginal kick on the striding sections.  It worked out pretty well - Hannah Miller had a huge breakthrough for a career-best 8th, while Kaitlynn was just 15 seconds from the win in 2nd - best ever Bowdoin Nordic finish!  Hannah Marshall also had a great day, with a PR of 51st despite fighting a cold, and Jackson scored a classic PR of 37th.  The women were once again 3rd for the day (Olivia rounding out the scoring in 48th) to complete an incredible weekend.

Things got weird again on the drive home - after smooth sailing for a couple hours, the roads got really slick around Concord, and we made the decision to pull over and get a hotel for the night.  Unfortunately, everyone else had the same idea - we snagged the last 2 rooms in a 20 mile radius, stuffed as many people into them as we could, and sent the rest up the road to Tess's house in Hopkinton, where the Helmboldt/Hamilton family welcomed their unexpected guests with incredible hospitality.  A surprise ending to a very unusual weekend.  Thanks so much to Krista and John for taking in the team!

I should also mention that Mac and Tess raced the NH Eastern Cups instead of the carnival last weekend, with Ruth driving over to serve as wax tech.  They were both solid in both races - although it looks like they're going to narrowly miss qualifying for JNs, they've made a good run at it, and hopefully they'll continue making progress for the rest of this year and next.

Here are some photos from Deb Miller:

And one more, courtesy of Chris Cannon: