HANCOCK/RIPTON, Vt. - A historic, regular-season-ending Middlebury College Carnival came to an end on Saturday with the Saint Michael's College Alpine and Nordic teams sitting in seventh place among 15 squads with 447 points, registering their highest placement at an Eastern Intercollegiate Ski Association (EISA) Championship in the league's modern era, which began in 1993-94. The Purple Knights had never placed higher than ninth at a prior EISA Championship. Dartmouth College won this year's meet with 979 points.
The carnival was not only the EISA Championship but also the NCAA East Regional Championship, as Alpine races took place at the Middlebury Snow Bowl, while Nordic competitions were at Rikert Ski Touring Center. Junior Guillaume Grand (La Plagne, France/Lycée Général Ferrié) landed his third career All-EISA accolade while headlining a trio of NCAA Championship qualifiers, as he, senior Danny Duffy (Warren, Vt./Green Mountain Valley School) and sophomore Anna Willassen (Jar, Norway/Persbråten VGS) will compete on the national stage. Grand will make his third appearance, Willassen her second and Duffy his first.
Grand placed eighth in the giant slalom on Saturday with a combined two-run time of 2:05.14, sophomore Zach Bouchard (Merrimac, Mass./Gould Academy) took 27th in 2:08.60, and Duffy finished 30th in 2:09.15. Grand becomes the third Purple Knight male - from either Alpine or Nordic - to qualify for at least three NCAA Championships, joining Alpine student-athletes Keith Farnand '00 and Fredrik Sandell '15.
While landing All-EISA second team laurels for the third straight year, Grand remains the only multi-All-EISA honoree of the modern era, but joins John Walters '88 and Bob Hawkins '89, who competed during the EISA Division II era, as the only men to be lauded at least three times in the College's skiing history.
Willassen took sixth in the GS at 2:09.48, while senior Meggane Grand (La Plagne, France/Lycée des métiers Ambroise Croizat) tied a career-best placement in her final college event by taking seventh at 2:09.88. Sophomore Emilia Laffin (Chamonix, France/Lycée du Mont-Blanc René Dayve) was 10th in 2:10.70, as the Purple Knight women put three among the top 10 in an event for what is believed to be the first time during modern EISA history. Willassen locked down her second trip to the NCAA Championship, becoming the first female skier - Alpine or Nordic - to ever qualify for multiple national meets.
Saint Michael's will send a school-record three Alpine skiers to the NCAA Championship for the third straight year. Among five Purple Knights who narrowly missed the cut, Meggane Grand and senior Mathias Grimsrud (Stabekk, Norway/Donski Alpine) both closed out their college careers on Saturday. They remain among 16 skiers from the College to ever qualify for the NCAA Championship, with Grand doing so as a sophomore and Grimsrud as a junior. Grand is one of four Alpine women to ever compete at nationals, and Grimsrud is among eight Alpine men to qualify.
The Alpine women scored third-place points (102) in the GS on Saturday, trailing only Dartmouth and Middlebury while besting perennial contenders University of New Hampshire and University of Vermont. The men took fifth (74), one point behind Saint Lawrence University, to help Alpine take third overall in the GS competitions. For the entire carnival, the women were third, including while beating Vermont by 15 points, and the men were fourth, with New Hampshire among the teams they bested. The Alpine program scored fourth-place points between the two days, trailing Vermont by only 47 points.
Senior Emma Barnes (Amherst, Wis./Amherst) closed out her two-sport college career by placing 48th in the mass-start 15K freestyle with a time of 46:45.0, while first-year Ale Legate (Anchorage, Alaska/West Anchorage) narrowly trailed in 51st, at 40:10.7. Sophomore Aimee Sala (Carrabassett Valley, Maine/Kents Hill School) was 58th at 52:26.8, while senior Micaela Flagg (Wolfeboro, N.H./Kingswood Regional) and first-year Emma Bellefleur (Wolfeboro, N.H./Kingswood Regional) took 60th and 61st, respectively, with Flagg competing in her final college race.
On the men's side, sophomore Mitch McDonald (Prior Lake, Minn./Prior Lake) paced the Purple Knights for the team-leading eighth time this winter by crossing the finish line in 57:10.9 to claim 51st place in the mass-start 20K freestyle. Sophomore Ethan Brookner (Minneapolis, Minn./Washburn) was 59th, and first-year Sam Seeley (Center Harbor, N.H./Inter-Lakes) placed 60th.
Qualifiers for the NCAA Championship head to Steamboat Springs, Colo, next month, as Alpine events will occur on March 7 at Steamboat Ski Resort before March 9 races take place under the lights, for just the fourth time in NCAA Championship history, of Howelsen Hill Ski Area.