NCAA Championships to return to Wasatch Back in 2014 | ParkRecord.com

NCAA Championships to return to Wasatch Back in 2014

Christopher Kamrani, The Park Record

Things worked out perfectly for Kevin Sweeney. The director of skiing for the University of Utah was able to help bring the NCAA Skiing Championships back to Utah for the first time since 2000, and in the process, also wrangled the Utes’ two home resorts, Park City Mountain Resort and Soldier Hollow Resort, to be the belles of the ball.

On Thursday, Nov. 1, the NCAA announced that the University of Utah was selected to host the 2014 NCAA Skiing Championships March 5-8. The alpine portion of the national championship meet will be held at Park City Mountain Resort, while the Nordic races will be held at Soldier Hollow Resort in Midway.

"I really think they go above and beyond what they need to, both of these venues," Sweeney explained. "This event isn’t a big money-maker. I really look at it as they’re just really happy and proud to support the University of Utah and the ski program. I feel really fortunate about it. They commit 100 percent with staff, grooming, and I can go to sleep at night knowing they’ll do a good job. It’s going to be world-class racing."

This will be the fifth time the Beehive State will have hosted the NCAA Championships. Utah also hosted the 1963, 1981, 1991 and 2000 championships, and, in 1981, the Utes won their second national championship in school history. The Utes have finished second at the NCAA Championships the last two seasons and have won a total of 11 national titles.

Sweeney said bidding to become a host for the NCAA Championships isn’t exactly a cakewalk. The NCAA alternates host sites between east and west every year. Initially, Utah had hoped for the 2012 event, but instead it went to Montana.

"We’d been anxious to host, but really it’s taken a little while for it to come together for us," he said. "I think people very much enjoy racing here because of the venues and the snow."

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Sweeney said each proposal must entail the ability to host a high-profile national event as well as having the Utah athletic department’s full support.

"You’ve got to have your budget proposal out there, and have to get either the venue owners or general managers to sign off saying that they agree to hosting and to abiding by NCAA rules and marketing and such," he said. "Both Park City and Soldier Hollow have been extremely supportive of ski racing, but also collegiate skiing in general. I think that was certainly great for us; they’re very excited, they’re very popular venues for big-stage events. We really had to plan early and make sure there weren’t any conflicts."

Asked why it’s taken Utah, so famous for its snow, 14 years to play host to the NCAA Championships, Sweeney said it was a combination of logistics and bad timing.

"The administration doesn’t want to bite off more than it can chew in hosting those events, so it makes sense," he said.

Karen Korfanta, race department manager for Park City Mountain Resort, said the resort was originally planning on hosting the 2012 NCAA Championships when Utah bid on it, but when it went to Montana, the resort knew to stay on standby.

"We felt pretty confident that it was our turn, and it’s good," she said. "It can be a long time out before you get to host them, but with the Utes training here, it’s a great thing for us to be able to host the NCAA Championships."

"It’s their home turf," Korfanta said. "I tell Kevin, ‘No pressure, but we’re counting on them.’"

According to Howard Peterson, the executive director of the Soldier Hollow Legacy Foundation, allowing the Utes to host such a significant event on their home training course only adds to the lore at Soldier Hollow.

"We’re a very active training site for the University of Utah, so we have really close relations with many of the skiers," he said. "This is something they’ve wanted to pursue for some time and we gave them our full support.

"It reinforces the legacy element of putting on an Olympic Games. (The venue) needs to have a whole lot left to give afterward. It’s not even scratching the surface of what it can offer."