STOWE — Landgrove native Ben Ogden finished off a magical week by leading the Vermont Catamounts to victory on their home trails Saturday at the UVM Carnival.
A week ago, the Nordic skier helped the U.S. relay team claim the gold medal at junior world championships. After flying from Finland to Burlington, he placed second Friday and finished first Saturday to help UVM beat Dartmouth by 20 points.
Last season, Dartmouth edged the Cats by 27 points at the UVM Carnival, and since then the Big Green won four of five carnivals. But Vermont reclaimed bragging rights with a team total of 934 points.
“It’s probably the strongest guys team I’ve ever had,” said Patrick Weaver, the 11-year veteran UVM Nordic coach. “We’ve had stacked women’s teams, and this season the women’s team is good too. For the women we had four out of the top seven today. And for the men we had seven of the top 8. We went 1-6, which is something I’ve never done before.”
The Catamounts opened the weekend by sweeping the giant slalom races at Stowe Mountain Resort. Vermont also won the men’s 10-kilometer freestyle event on Friday, with the UVM women placing second. That gave Vermont a 41-point lead entering Day 2.
The UVM men’s Nordic team piled up 141 points to overpower second-place Middlebury (98) in Saturday’s 20k classic race at Trapp Family Lodge. Dartmouth was a distant sixth (74). Vermont’s women posted a winning total of 130 points to edge Dartmouth (115) in the 15k classic event.
Vermont’s cross-country skiers were so dominant that their Alpine teammates inherited a massive lead entering the second run of slalom in the afternoon. A victory may have appeared gift-wrapped, but the Cats were missing two of their best skiers because Laurence St. Germain and Paula Moltzan traveled to Slovenia for a women’s World Cup event.
The Vermont men wound up second behind Dartmouth and only gave up 12 points to the Big Green. Dartmouth’s Tanguy Def won the men’s slalom in 1:46.7. Patrick McConville (fourth, 1:50.25) and Max Roeisland (fifth, 1:50.67) powered UVM in front of teammates Raphael Quenneville (14th, 1:53.52) and David Frisk (17th, 1:53.92).
The big question mark surrounded the women’s slalom as UVM struggled and Dartmouth soared. It was an uncharacteristic performance by the Cats, who swept the podium 24 hours beforehand during the giant slalom.
The Dartmouth women claimed four of the top seven GS spots, led by Alexa Dlouhy (first, 1:56.29), Stephanie Currie (second, 1:57.59), Patricia Magnan (1:858.12) and Claire Thomas (seventh, 2:02.47). UVM’s top skier was Josefine Selvaag (ninth, 2:02.79), but her only teammates who finished were Millie Graesdal (34th, 2:19.97) and Rachael Desrochers (44th, 2:34.21). The Cats finished ninth, directly behind Colby-Sawyer and Boston College. Their 47-point contribution was still clutch, tipping the scales in the team outcome.
“We didn’t ski to our ability the first two weekends, and the other teams did,” said Bill Reichelt, UVM Alpine coach and Director of Skiing. “We’re kind of fighting our way out of the hole, so this is a first good step.”
The UVM women kicked off the final day of cross-country action by showcasing superior fitness at the front of the pack. Vermont’s Anna Bizyukova (50:20.7) crossed the line in first place and was followed closely by fellow Cats Margie Freed (fourth, 50:32.1), Evelina Sutro (fifth, 50:42.4) and Lizzie Larkins (sixth, 51:20.2). Middlesex skier Rena Schwartz raced for Dartmouth and placed 15th (53:04.4).
Ogden was brimming with confidence after last week’s gold medal at world championships, where he also placed eighth in the classic sprint and 10th in the 30k classic. During Friday’s 10k freestyle in Stowe he lost by five seconds to teammate Bill Harmeyer, giving Ogden extra incentive for the 20k classic.
“Bill got me (Friday) and it was really exciting,” Ogden said. “He’s a talented skate skier. I can sometimes take him in classic, but he’s got me in skate. So it keeps both of us working.”
Ogden crossed the line in 59:35.4 after pulling away from Matias Bjoernflaten (59:41.6) in the stadium. Rounding out the lead UVM train were Ian Moore (third, 59:47.3), Henry Harmeyer (fourth, 59:53.5), Juri Miosga (fifth, 59:55.2), Bill Harmeyer (sixth, 59:58.1) and Finn O’Connell (eighth, 1:00:04.7).
“It was cool to look around and see all my teammates. It felt like we were out doing intervals, like we do every other day,” Ogden said. ”As the race wore on, it thinned out. But not many of the UVM boys dropped, so we got to stay together. And at the very end I just decided it was time to go. I really threw it down in the last 1k. And I was able to open up a little gap on my teammate Matias and carry it all the way to the line.”
Ogden claimed back-to-back victories at the season-opening St. Lawrence Carnival, accounting for 100 of the Cats’ 895 points. UVM edged Dartmouth by 30 points, but the Big Green earned payback two weeks ago at the UNH Carnival. Ogden missed the Granite State races while preparing for worlds, but Bill Harmeyer stepped up with two straight victories and a repeat 100-point performance. Dartmouth posted a winning score of 986 points and Vermont was second (849).
The Dartmouth Carnival will take place Feb 8-9. Action will be split between the Dartmouth Skiway and the Dartmouth Cross-Country Center. The Middlebury Carnival is set for Feb. 15-16 at the Snow Bowl and Rikert Touring Center. Bates will host the EISA Championships at Sunday River and Black Mountain from Feb. 22-23.
NCAA Championships will return to Vermont for the first time since 2011 when UVM hosts the big event from March 6-9. Alpine racers will compete at Stowe Mountain Resort and Nordic athletes will be return to Trapp Family Lodge.
The Catamounts were crowned NCAA champions in 1980, 1989, 1990, 1992, 1994 and 2012. They secured their 15th second-place finish in 2014 and finished fifth last year. Sixty-six U.S. Ski Team members raced for UVM at some point in their careers, and the program has produced 54 individual NCAA champions.
The top western teams are perennial favorites entering NCAA’s, with Denver boasting 24 titles since 1954. Colorado has won 20 times and Utah is an 11-time champ.
“Given that you never race the western skiers, you just never have an idea,” Weaver said. “We always shoot for top-3. But we try to focus more on what we do every day: just preparing for the race and hoping for the best.”