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Dartmouth Attempts to Finally Ski Past UVM

Middlebury, Vt. — Dartmouth College spent this ski season chasing the University of Vermont and never quite catching the Catamounts. But director of skiing Chip Knight believes the Big Green has enough talent to overhaul UVM when the NCAA championships open here tomorrow, and topple a powerful contingent of Western schools as well.

“We’ve been kind of chipping our way up the ladder all season,” Knight said. “Realistically, it will be a challenge to win a national title. But I’m not convinced we have fully jelled yet.”

Dartmouth finished second to Vermont in all five Eastern carnivals this season, including the Eastern championships, where the Green won four of eight events.

“Dartmouth has had some tremendous individual results,” said University of Denver coach Andy Leroy. “For them, it’s a matter of putting them together at the same time.”

The Big Green, which won the 2007 title and shared the 1976 crown with Colorado, will be skiing without a competitive safety net. While UVM, Denver, Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and Alaska-Anchorage all qualified the maximum number of 12 skiers (three in each of the four events), Dartmouth advanced only 11. It will race only two skiers in the men’s slalom and giant slalom.

“Having 11 doesn’t really eliminate us because of the fickleness of the alpine side,” Knight said. “You have to kind of build into your plan that you’re going to lose somebody somewhere in alpine.

“But we are a little short-handed. We can’t afford any falls.”

Dartmouth’s power lies on the Nordic side, where Annie Hart and Mary O’Connell were first team All-East for the women and Scott Lacy, Silas Talbot and Sam Tarling earned that distinction for the men. O’Connell was also named the female rookie of the year after winning both Nordic races at the Easterns. Tarling has a chance to add another NCAA title to the one he captured in 2011.

“We will use Nordic as our anchor,” Knight said. “We are so deep on the men’s side and Annie Hart and Corey Stock have flown a little bit under the radar on the women’s side.”

Lizzie Kistler was the Eastern women’s rookie of the year in alpine and challenged UVM All-American Kate Ryley for top honors all season. Sara Kikut and Abigail Fucigna provide quality depth.

“Lizzie competed really well in slalom in some Nor-Am competition against the West this winter, so I think she’ll be ready,” Knight said. “It’s a matter of making sure the right people get to the finish line on the same day.”

Hunter Black and Ben Morse will carry Dartmouth’s hopes in men’s alpine. Black was fifth in slalom at the Easterns but 32nd in giant slalom. Morse placed 10th and 18th, respectively.

This will be the fifth time the championships have been held at Middlebury, and Western schools have flown home with the title each time: Denver in 1961 and 2001, Utah in 1988 and Colorado in 1972. The West has won 16 of the last 18 championships — Dartmouth snapped a 12-year string with its victory in 2007 and Vermont won its sixth crown last year.

“Everyone is excited to be so close to Hanover, and I know we’ll have a lot of support,” Knight said. “There is a lot of youthful exuberance on this team and historically, we have skied well at Middlebury. I think we’re ready.”

Competition begins tomorrow morning at 9:30 with the women’s and men’s giant slalom at the Middlebury Snow Bowl. The women’s 5-kilometer classic (10 a.m.) and the men’s 10-kilomter classic (noon) run tomoeeow at the Rikert Nordic Center.

Friday shifts back to the Snow Bowl with the two runs of the women’s and men’s slalom races, beginning at 9:30 a.m. The champion will be decided Saturday following the women’s 15-kilometer freestyle and men’s 20-kilometer freestyle Nordic events at Rikert.