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Slow Start For Big Green

Dartmouth 10th After Day 1 Of NCAA Meet

Hancock, Vt. — Dartmouth College began the 60th NCAA ski championships with little margin for error in its quest for a third national title. That wiggle room grew even smaller after a less-than-stellar start yesterday in the men and women’s giant slalom events at the Middlebury College Snow Bowl.

Dartmouth was eighth after the women’s GS and fell to 10th after the men’s races with 76.5 points heading into today’s men and women’s classical races at the Rikert Nordic Center in Ripton. Defending champion Vermont holds the two-event lead with 227 points, followed by Denver (210) and Colorado (175.5).

“It was a bit of a disappointing day,” Chip Knight, Dartmouth director of skiing and alpine coach, said. “We had hoped for a top-10 result, we really needed that. We’ll do better in slalom.”

The Big Green’s strength this season has been its Nordic team. The alpine squad showed flashes of brilliance, but battled inconsistency and qualified only two men for the NCAA competition, one fewer than the maximum of three fielded by UVM, New Hampshire and western powers Utah, Denver and Colorado.

Dartmouth’s best result in the two-run giant slaloms came from freshman Sara Kikut, who finished 14th after posting the 10th fastest second run.

“Sara had a great day against competition that was twice as tough,” Knight said.

Kikut continued a hot streak that saw her finish a season-best eighth in the Eastern Intercollegiate Skiing Association championships at Bates. She was 10th in the GS earlier this season at the Snow Bowl during Middlebury’s winter carnival.

“This was so much fun — I did what I came out to do,” Kikut said. “I was happy with both my runs and the fact that we all three finished sets us up for the slalom (on Friday.)”

Abigail Fucigna ended 24th, and Lizzie Kistler, the EISA alpine rookie of the year, was 28th for the women.

Kistler failed to finish the giant slalom at the Middlebury Carnival and struggled again on the Snow Bowl’s course.

“This hill has been pretty tricky for me in the past and it was again today,” Kistler said. “But it was fun, and we have a chance to do more in the slalom.”

Hunter Black and Ben Morse carried Dartmouth’s hopes in the men’s race and fell into a hole when Morse finished 32nd out of 34 skiers in the first run. Black was 14th but could not make a move in the second run, finishing 27th. Morse was 30th.

Black had to wait nearly 10 minutes to begin his second run after Utah’s Ryan Wilson had a spectacular crash just ahead of him.

Dartmouth hopes to make a big move up the standings after today’s Nordic races. Mary O’Connell, the women’s EISA Nordic rookie of the year, teams with Annie Hart to give the Big Green a potent 1-2 punch while Scott Lacy, Silas Talbot and Sam Tarling were all first-team all-East. Tarling also won an NCAA title in 2011.

“We have a chance to make something happen (Thursday),” Knight said. “We have some real strength and are looking forward to showing it.”

Denver’s Kristine Haugen continued her alpine dominance by winning the NCAA giant slalom title by more than a second over Brooke Wales of Colorado. Haugen won all five GS races in the West this season and four slalom events. Vermont’s Kristina Riss-Johannessen was third.

In the men’s competition, Vermont’s Jonathan Nordbotten took first while New Hampshire’s Corey Oliver was a season-best second and pre-race favorite Jeremy Elliot of Utah was third. (Oliver and Elliot posted identical times but Oliver moved ahead because he had the fastest single-run time.)

The championship continues tomorrow with the men and women’s slalom races and concludes Saturday with the freestyle Nordic events.