This past weekend mother nature aided the return of competition to Prospect Mountain, Vermont. One hundred skiers made the journey to the southern part of the state for a weekend of classic competition on newly designed trails. While temperatures hovered in the single digits and teens most of the weekend intermittent sunshine and the excitement of racing again warmed everyone to the core.
Saturday was a test of our Covid-safe sprint protocol, where skiers perform to “runs,” 20 minutes apart, replacing typical head-to-head sprint heats. The U16’s started the day racing under the shade of the mountain, with an enthusiastic announcer and the sounds of 70’s rock and roll filling the air. While the lodge was not open to prevent close contact between visitors it provided an iconic Vermont backdrop for a stadium filled with sponsor banners and Bullitt’s high tech timing systems. The new 1.2km sprint loop was a combination of several steep climbs and descents – garnering descriptions ranging from “brutal” to “fun.” Skiers had a section of double poling out of the stadium, but the two noteworthy climbs were a running affair. With easy-to-find-kick many competitors were able to keep their skis parallel for most of the course.
Fin Bailey of the Stratton Mountain School, turned heads with convincing speed – his first run time of 3:09 was the second fastest skied by any competitor on the day. His teammates Wyatt Teaford and David Shycon we able to hold on to second and third in both runs.
Miley Bletzer, SMS, also won both of her runs with times of 4:02 and 4:03 — showing consistency that many were not able to match during the demanding back-to-back sprint qualifiers. Virginia Cobb of Mansfield Nordic, who topped the field last week in the Craftsbury distance race, came second in both runs followed by her fellow Pug, Esther Cuneo.
Bill Harmeyer, SMS T2, was finally able to put on a bib for the first time in a sprint competition since last January’s US Nationals in Houghton, Michigan. The clear race favorite, and the producer of our NENSA recap videos, showed the junior field what smooth and fast looks like, recording times of 3:01 and 3:04. In the first run, Brian Bushey and Aidan Burt, both GMVS skiers took second and third place. In run two, Burt was able to move up a place and Jack Young from Craftsbury snuck into third.
2020 Junior World Sprint competitor, Callie Young of Dartmouth set the tone for the women’s field — winning both runs by nearly 10 seconds apiece. Her fastest run was 3:32. In the first run, Mansfield’s Ava Thurston, who will represent USA at Junior Worlds this year snagged second place with her impressive running. Rena Schwartz was able to nip fellow Dartmouth skier, Chelsea Moore for the third position. In run two, second was claimed by Anna Lehmann who skis for SMS this season and Schwartz remained in third.
Sunday morning dawned a skiers paradise and a striders dream. While nearly two feet of snow had fallen over the past week – cold temps and a reprieve from new snow allowed groomer Steve Whitman to transform the newly homologated 5km course into a piece of Nordic artwork. While the sprint course challenged racers to steep climbs, the distance course is filled with undulating and rolling terrain allowing for traditional technique. Before the skiers knew it they were halfway up the mountain were they either rocketed into the stadium to finish (5km U16) or hit the lap for a second trip around to make 1okm. The two parallel tracks of natural powder snow didn’t look much different at 3pm than they did as initial skier inspections started at 8am. Folks will remember that day for some time.
In the U16 boys race the Stratton trio of Bailey, Teaford and Shycon continued their speedy ways making for a clean sweep on the weekend. Bailey ripped a 5km lap in 14:41.
Miley Bletzer kept her momentum as well with a :47 second victory over second. She completed the 5km course in 18:25. Julia Thurston of Mansfield claimed second and brought Virginia Cobb along to third.
Bill Harmeyer was in his own class Sunday too, where he achieved his pre-race goal of negative splitting the second lap. He covered the 10km course in 29:04. Zander Martin, a Vermont resident who races for Bates College, put down an impressive performance to take second place just shy of :40 seconds from Harmeyer. Brian Bushey finished in third just :12 seconds back of Martin.
Ava Thurston stepped up in the absence of the college women to claim victory by over a minute with a time of 34:55. Quincy Massey-Bierman continues to ski into race form and found herself in second on the day ahead of Emma Strack who has found some new gears recently.
As a spectator it was apparent that this was a group of competitors who really know how to ski and the organizing committee and volunteers knocked the weekends event out of the park. Being a part of such a well run event, only weeks separated, from when Vermont residents weren’t even able to gather for club practices was nothing short of surreal. We look forward to visiting Prospect soon again.
We are halfway through the Virtual Freeman Frost with registration closing on the 31st. There is a 22km and 14km option – both will be scored to Zak and Club scoring. This is an opportunity for any club regardless of their location to compete for the A Hallmark of Excellence.
This weekend racing resumes at Craftsbury with the Kendall Cup a FIS event with opportunities for open skiers and masters. Although the masters numbers will be limited we will score the event to Zak and Club Cup points. And we will be giving out NENSA / Hall Prize money in the FIS race.
New to the calendar, Dublin XC will be hosting a “New Hampshire Cup” race on February 6th. More details to come soon.
Stay up to date on all in-person and Virtual Popular Race listings here.