For the first time since 2011, the Dartmouth Carnival took place at Dartmouth! Oak Hill is a great race venue - narrow and winding trails lined by beautiful tall evergreens. With a nice dose of snow just a few days before the carnival, conditions were excellent. Friday's 10/10k classic was old school - a single 10k loop. These days a 5k loop is standard, and it's pretty common to do several short loops when snow is low, but anything longer is rare, so this was a fun treat. When I say "fun," I mean a certain type of fun - interesting, different, challenging, fun when you're done, etc (if you're a ski racer, you know what I mean) - because the Dartmouth 10k loop is really, really hard. I raced it a few times myself back in college, and it still shows up in my nightmares now and then - an unrelenting series of switchback climbs followed by several technical downhill turns that are fun when you're on your game and not so fun when your legs are shot from all the climbing. So this was not your typical course. The men got it started with some respectable finishes - Elliot 9th, Christian 29th, and Orion 38th. Ski feedback was mixed, so we did another quick round of testing and made some adjustments for the women. The early starters looked solid, so we started feeling cautiously optimistic. Then Gabby came by - WOW. Fast, focused, everything driving forward powerfully - great skiing. When Renae came through a few minutes later looking just as good, we knew it was going to be a special day. They ended up 7th and 8th - combined with Elliot's 9th, this was the first time we've ever had 3 top 10 finishers in one day. Gabby's 7th also set a new mark for us - best finish ever for a Bowdoin Nordic first-year, edging Hannah Miller's 8th place finish from the 2014 Midd Carnival. Lily rounded out the women's scoring with a solid 28th, putting the women in 4th, just three points out of 3rd! Overall, a great day that wouldn't have been possible without volunteer assistant coach John Eldredge, who made a special trip out to NH so he could help with the waxing.
Saturday's 5/10k skate was combined with an Eastern Cup - a large, competitive field and a charged, slightly chaotic atmosphere. Elliot led the men in 13th (for EISA), with Christian 20th and Sam posting his first official top 30 finish of the year in 30th. The women continued their strong trend, with all three scorers in the top 30 for the fourth race in a row - Renae 16th, Ellie 25th, and Gabby 28th. I don't mind saying that we got some rather unusual but very positive feedback from the women about the skis - "too fast!" A little hyperbolic, no doubt, but I'll take it. The team's combined efforts put us in 5th for the weekend - hard to believe that this kind of finish is the new normal for Bowdoin Nordic!
Unfortunately, an otherwise great weekend was marred by a bad accident - Luca had a nasty crash in the skate race and dislocated his shoulder again. I can't even describe how heartbreaking this is - Luca has had a lot of ups and downs with his shoulder over the last year and a half, and he's worked so hard to come back from his surgery last May. He's a strong person, and he has an amazing family backing him up - I know he'll come back strong. Even so, this is a tough blow to absorb. We'll be sending all our love and support to help Luca through his recovery.