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Nordic Teams Lift Big Green Into 7th

Ripton, Vt. — Freshman Mary O’Connell finished second in the women’s 5-kilometer classical race, while Silas Talbot was fifth in the men’s 10-kilometer event at the Rikert Nordic Center to lead a Dartmouth comeback yesterday at the NCAA ski championships, hosted by Middlebury College.

The Big Green was in 10th place after Wednesday’s giant slalom races, more than 150 points behind defending champion Vermont. But O’Connell led the Dartmouth women to a tie for the best women’s team performance and the men were fourth best. That bumped the Green up to seventh, with 263.5 points heading into today’s slalom events. UVM still leads with 389 points with Colorado next at 368.5.

“You always hope for more, but it was a good day,” said Nordic coach Cami Thompson Graves. “The wax was tricky — conditions changed a lot from the morning to the afternoon.”

O’Connell was named the Eastern Collegiate Skiing Association women’s Nordic rookie of the year after winning both cross country races at the Eastern championships. She finished in 15 minutes, 42.2 seconds, 11.1 seconds behind winner Anja Gruber of Vermont.

“I was a little nervous going in,” O’Connell said. “I knew my fitness was there, but this field was a lot tougher than the ones during the regular season. I was really happy with my race.”

O’Connell was backed by Annie Hart (seventh in 16:04.7) and Corey Stock (20th in 16:36.8).

“This is a really hard course that you have to go at as hard as you can,” Hart said. “It’s the cumulative affect of the hills that get you. Each one by itself isn’t so bad, but taken together really makes you feel it in the butt.”

Stock said she was spurred by the vocal support from a strong contingent of Big Green backers.

“It was just awesome to be out there with so many Dartmouth fans,” she said. “It was a pretty cool environment.”

Talbot was fifth in the men’s 10-kilometer classical in the Eastern regionals, a race in which he felt he had been too conservative. That changed yesterday.

“I went out very hard today and took some risks early,” Talbot said. “I started to slow up in the final few kilometers, but all in all I was very happy with the result.”

Talbot had a time of 26:36.8 in a race won by Colorado’s Rune Oedegaars in 26:00.2. The Big Green’s Sam Tarling was 12th in 27:04.7 and Scott Lacy was 22nd in 27:35.3. Tarling, who won an NCAA title in the freestyle race in 2011, was unhappy with his race.

“You want your best races to be in the championship and sometimes it doesn’t work out,” he said. “No excuses — I just didn’t bring it today.”

Colorado tied for first in the women’s race and was second in the men’s to jump from third place to second with 368.5 points. Utah is third at 350 and Denver fourth at 328. New Hampshire, fourth after a strong showing in giant slalom, slipped to eighth at 228.5.