Niklas Persson of Utah, front, and Pierre Guedon of Denver, catch their breath after crossing the finish line of the 10-kilometer classical race at Soldier
Niklas Persson of Utah, front, and Pierre Guedon of Denver, catch their breath after crossing the finish line of the 10-kilometer classical race at Soldier Hollow on Thursday. Christopher Reeves/The Park Record

The warm temperatures that plagued the alpine skiers at the NCAA Skiing Championships at Park City Mountain Resort on Wednesday were no problem for the Nordic skiers at Soldier Hollow on Thursday.

Though the men's 10-kilometer classical event started two hours earlier than scheduled to preserve as much snow as possible, racers were pleased with the way the course held up.

University of Colorado junior Rune Oedegaard, winner of the 10K race at last year's NCAA Championships, defended his title in style, finishing with a time of 24 minutes, 34.5 seconds more than 11 seconds ahead of second-place Pierre Guedon of Denver.

"It was actually a lot firmer and faster than we had expected," Oedegaard said. "They must have done a great job preparing the course."

Though the course looks relatively flat, Oedegaard said looks could be deceiving.

"It's a special course because there are no really steep hills it's mostly gradual," he said. "You would think it's a pretty easy course, but you actually have to work all the way through. It was tough in the end area I had to fight really hard."

Sophomore Niklas Persson of Utah finished in third place, crossing the line in 25:00.9. After starting first, Persson said he wasn't quite sure how the race was going until halfway through.

"I know the course really well, but it's hard to start with Bib No. 1," he said. "You never know if you're having a good race until the second lap when you get your splits."

Though the Utes lost their Day One lead and now trail Denver 299-248 in team points, with Colorado sitting in a close third place with 240.5 points, Persson said he's happy with his result and knows his team can get back on top.

"We want to win," he said. "This is our home course and we're here to win. That's absolutely our goal."

On the women's side, in the 5K classical race, Anja Gruber of Vermont finished in first place with a time of 13:38.4. Sylvia Thorson Nordskar of Denver took second place and Eva Severrus of New Mexico crossed the line in third.

The Nordic races will wrap up on Saturday with the men's 20K freestyle and women's 15K freestyle. Both races will be held at Soldier Hollow, with the men's event beginning at 10 a.m.