Gustavus senior Jens Brabbit (Winona, Minn./Cotter) turned in a 34th place performance in the 20k Classic on Friday to wrap up a successful showing at this year’s NCAA Skiing Championships in Stowe, Vermont.
Serving as the lone Gustavus representative in the meet, Brabbit finished the classic course in 1:10:57.8 and parlayed a strong second half effort into a two-place improvement over his 36th place finish in the 10k Freestyle on Wednesday.
Competing in rainy conditions and maneuvering through a forest of trees featuring Vermont’s trademark maple syrup taps, Brabbit overcame an early deficit to match his 34th place showing in the classic event at last year’s NCAA Championships. Brabbit kept pace with a pack of three skiers for the first half of the race, but still remained in last place through the mid-point of the race, a full three seconds behind his closest competitor.
“From our side, it was really neat to see Jens hang in there because he was off in the back during the first half of the race. He was battling a skier from UAF to avoid the last spot, but then Jens kept pushing and started passing a few guys. He ended up skiing much of the second half of the race with Sam Tarling from Dartmouth who actually won the Freestyle on Wednesday,” stated head coach Jed Friedrich.
Skiing in his final race in a Gustavus uniform, Brabbit found an extra gear in the second half of the race to surge past a pack of five competitors and cross the finish line a half-minute ahead of his nearest pursuer. Brabbit qualified for the NCAA Championships with the eighth and final NCAA Division III spot in the meet, but vaulted past a pair of his counterparts in the classic to end his weekend—as well as his collegiate career—on a high note.
“In a 20k race with tough conditions it’s so important to stay focused and not give up,” stated Friedrich. “Jens clearly did not give up during this race, which I’m really proud of him for.”
Brabbit’s solo effort netted the team ten points over the weekend, giving the Gusties a 21st place team finish.