RUMFORD, ME -- Hosted by Bates College, the final collegiate carnival and joint EISA Regional Championship opened competition today at Black Mountain and Sunday River. While the Williams Ski Team sits in fifth place overall, multiple marks place today's performances in the Williams' program history books.
Battling unusually warm temperatures and soft snow, the Nordic races began with the men's 10km and women's 5km individual start classic races.
The Williams men, who have been at or near the top of the EISA all season, showed top form and placed five racers in the top twelve including the top two finishers overall. Early on it was Williams' Braden Becker who posted the top split ahead of teammate Honeig. As the race wore on, Honeig responded and went on to claim a nine second victory in 28:56. Becker finished second to claim his best ever EISA finish. Third place went to University of Maine Presque Isle's Connor Hyynuk. Fourth and fifth place went to a pair of Dartmouth skiers in Fabian Stocek and Callan Deline.
Coach Jay Lemieux commented, "Eli's win was the first individual win in Williams Nordic skiing history and something that he has been chasing for the past four seasons."
While both Honeig and Becker rose to the occasion in Friday's tough conditions, Honeig emphasized that even skiing close to the lead, it was hard to feel strong. "I didn't know that I was doing well on the second lap, I was feeling very tired." On successful tactics for the warm racing, Becker emphasized that, "taking the downhills aggressively and staying relayed on the climbs was key." Both felt that aggressive skiing was critical to success and believed their strong early splits propelled them to eventual top placement. Both Honeig and Becker were excited with their team's dominance and felt that it was a long time coming saying, "The whole team has been completely focused this past year, we decided then that we wanted to be the best team in the EISA." With one goal arguably achieved, Honeig added another to the list, "Williams Men's Nordic is going to win NCAAs."
The dominant performance led the Williams men to claim their fifth win of the 2017 season, scoring 134 points.
In the women's race, Sonya Jampel '19 led the Ephs with a career-best, 14th place. Close behind was Carmen Bango '20 in 16th place and Ingrid Thyr '20 in 17th place. The trio of underclassmen contributed to a team score of 79 points, earning fifth place.
"Today was a magical day for the entire team. I'm really at a loss for words, but it was so rewarding to see all of the team's hard work pay off in a dominating performance," said Lemieux. "As a Nordic program our combined men's and women's team was first today. That is amazing in itself, but the scoring team is only made up three skiers and we put all six men in the top 24 and all six women in the top 33. The toughness in our skiers shined today."
The Alpine competition began with the giant slalom; however, the races were scored after one run due to weather conditions.
Coach Kelsey Levine explained, "The warm weather and sunshine was enjoyable to experience but it did a number on the track. This left athletes to depend on their ability to deal with adverse situations and athleticism."
The Williams men had two scorers, Marc Talbott '18 in 19th place and Bryan Bailey '19 in 28th place. On the women's side, Hannah Hunsaker '19 took 15th place, followed by Gibson Donnan '19 in 41st, and Makena Jones in 58th place. For the day, Williams took 9th and 10th, for women and men, respectively.
"The Ephs fought today and took risks - for some it was a jolt of feedback from the track. Others were able to fight through it for some solid results. I am proud of this team's desire to digger for it," said Levine.
Head Coach Jason Lemieux '01 was also awarded the EISA 2017 Coach of the Year award, for the second season in a row.
Competition continues tomorrow with a 20k/15k skate race and the slalom.
*Bold/italicized text indicates EISA recap information.