UVM, Vermont - Freshmen Irina Norkin stayed on her feet during an early pile up in the 15km mass start at last Saturday's University of Vermont Carnival, and despite losing a fair bit of time initially, used her climbing ability to make up ground and eventually overtake two Saint Mary's College skiers that bested her at the previous Carnival's long distance event, finishing in 77th place in 1:06:56.3. The race was dominated by the Catamounts of Vermont, who placed 4 skiers in the top 7 places, with Anna Bizyukova winning in 50:20.7.
A fall in the first 200 meters of the race led to some commotion, a few broken poles, and even a minor concussion for one athlete.. The pile up forced Norkin to the back, and before the 1k mark of the race, she was 98 seconds off the pack, chasing down the same trio of Saint Mary's skiers - Rachel Smith, Emma Bellefleur, and Ellen Emers - who defeated her by several minutes athe UNH Carnival just two weeks ago. The spirited freshmen from Fryeburg, Maine did not give up, however, and instead sailed around the Trapp Family Lodge trails with her trademark grit and fierce competitiveness, determined to showcase the improvements she has made in training the past two weeks. And she sure did. Norkin was able to cut the time difference to 72 seconds by the 6 kilometer mark, and by the start of the final 5 km lap, she was less than 30 back. Working the gradual uphills with a smooth and relaxed stride, the cross country runner and nordic skiing dual athlete made a move past both Smith and Bellefluer with about 4 kilometers to go.
"I was chasing her around the course, giving out splits about every 1k," said Coach Sederquist. "I was getting excited when she started closing the gap, and then, I just saw her crest this hill and she was in front of two skiers - it was really sweet!"
Norkin would put on 64 seconds on Smith and over 2 minutes on Bellefleur before the end. The performance was a sign of improvement that has the coach-athlete trio of Sederquist, Currier, and Norkin, excited.
"She is coming along nicely - I'm excited to see how she will end the year," said Sederquist.
Next week, the Owls team will stay home, competing at the C-ME Ski race in Limestone, Maine, an Aroostook Cup race. Norkin will wrap up her Carnival season at the Bates winter carnival on February 22-23 in Rumford, ME.