CRAFTSBURY – The first races in the COVID era were held at Craftsbury Outdoor Center on Saturday, Jan. 16. It had to be the quietest race event ever held at the Center: no spectators, groups of 25 skiers going out on course over 15 minutes, finish, go for cool down, and head home. Thirty minutes later, the next group of skiers headed out.
The races were held over five hours, compared to the normal two-hour period for a race this size. Except while racing, masks were mandatory and everyone complied. Parents hung out at their cars, went on their own solitary skis, or went for a walk. The only cheering was by coaches scattered along the trail. The kids and young adults were happy to race. All seemed to go smoothly and more importantly, safely.
I always thought that the phrase ‘the loneliness of the long-distance runner’ was a reference to the hours of solitary training in an endurance sport, but it’s actually a movie about social divides in Great Britain. Despite my misconception of the origins of the phrase, the racers were mostly on their own, with occasional groups of two to three racers passing each other in the four- or eight-lap course – the solitary life of an endurance athlete.
The guys headed out first. UVM standout and U.S. Junior World skier Ben Ogden skied up front, winning in 22:10 over the eight-lap, 8.8 km course. Craftsbury Academy graduate Finn Sweet skied well, finishing 39 seconds back. Finn was supposed to be a first-year student at UVM this year, but decided to take the year off and train with the Craftsbury GRP. Craftsbury Nordic Ski Club (CNSC) skiers Tzevi Schwartz and Aiden Casey had outstanding races, finishing eighth and ninth overall (third and fourth among U18 skiers). Former Craftsbury Academy skier Anders Hanson was tenth. CNSC skiers Cormac Leahy was 14th, Orion Cenkl 25th, and Linden Stelma-Leonard 28th. In the U16 (under 16) boys’ race, Bailey Fin from Stratton Mountain School placed first in 12:42 in the 4.4 km race. CNSC’s Leo Circosta placed a strong third, with Charlie Krebs seventh, Sage Grossi 11th, Alan Moody 12th, and U14 skier Charles Kehler 15th.
In the women’s 8.8 km race, SMS2 skier Alayna Sorenson, a former UVM standout, bested the field by 1:20 seconds (25:47) with Craftsbury GRP skiers Alex Lawson second, Margie Fried third, and Michaela Keller-Miller fifth. Junior CNSC skier Nina Seeman was 10th, Quincy Massey-Bierman 12th, Camille Bolduc 13th, and Maggie McGee 14th among the 35 starters. U18 skier Ava Thurston (Mansfield Nordic – Waterbury), one of the top young skiers in the east, showed her prowess by finishing fourth. She’ll be one to watch for in future years. In the U16 girls’ race, Virginia Cobb (Mansfield Nordic 15:32) led the way in the 4.4 km race. Local finishers include Anika Leahy (fifth), Amelia Circosta (seventh), Ruth Krebs (eighth). The three Craftsbury Nordic girls finished one-two-three in the U14 age class.
For many of the racers, this was their first hard effort of the season. For some it went well; others will find their fast gears in later races. By learning how to hold COVID-safe races, more will be on the schedule, allowing these young athletes to learn and test their strength. High school Nordic races have now been allowed by the governor in limited race formats.