Denver wins 22nd NCAA skiing title
Denver University athletes were all over the podiums at the NCAA Skiing Championships at Park City Mountain Resort and Soldier Hollow last week.
Beginning on Wednesday and concluding on Saturday afternoon, the Pioneers snagged podium spots in five of eight events during championship week.
Even in the events where the Pioneers didn’t land at least one athlete on the podium, they were knocking on the door, earning two fourth-place finishes and a fifth-place finish in the three events in which they didn’t podium.
A historically strong program, with 21 NCAA skiing titles prior to 2014, Denver was hungry to add a 22nd trophy to its collection.
"We kind of got used to winning 2008, 2009, 2010," DU Nordic coach Dave Stewart said. "It was the goal of our program to win this championship and bring it home to our university. To get back on [top of the podium] again is just so special for us."
The Pioneers got off to a strong start on Wednesday in the women’s giant slalom when Kristine Haugen earned a victory, besting Kristiina Rove and Chloe Fausa of Utah.
In the men’s race immediately following the women’s event, Trevor Philp finished just off the podium in fourth place.
Thursday at Soldier Hollow, the Pioneers earned a pair of second-place finishes, with Sylvia Thorson Nordskar taking the runner-up spot in the women’s classical 5-kilometer race. In the men’s 10K event, Pierre Guedon crossed the line behind Colorado’s Rune Oedegaard to keep Denver in the hunt for an overall title.
After the slalom races were delayed from Friday to Saturday because of unsafe course conditions, the Pioneers didn’t miss a beat. In the men’s slalom, DU took the top two spots, with Espen Lysdahl winning the race and Philp finishing second.
Though the Vermont women swept the slalom podium, Denver turned in the fifth-, seventh- and eighth-best times, with Haugen, Tianda Carroll and Devin Delaney skiing strong races in tough conditions.
At Soldier Hollow on Saturday, Guedon finished fourth in the men’s 20K freestyle race and Thorson Nordskar finished third in the women’s 15K event to clinch the title for the Pioneers.
Stewart said he wasn’t surprised how well the team did based on what he’s seen in training all year long.
"We had a strong year," he said. "It wasn’t really about having an amazing championship here. It was really just about doing what they do every week, week in and week out. We just had to be normal to win. It’s just a result of quality training and hard work by our athletes."
By scoring 556 team points, Denver cruised to the team victory over second-place Vermont (487.5 points). New Mexico took home the third-place trophy, amassing 458.5 points. Defending champion Colorado finished fourth (402.5) and host Utah wound up fifth (392).
Though Vermont couldn’t catch up to Denver, the Catamounts were encouraged by the way their women’s alpine team finished up the NCAA Championships. Kristina Riis-Johannessen won the slalom race, with teammates Kate Ryley (second) and Elise-Woien Tefre (third) joining her on the podium.
"It’s super exciting," Riis-Johannessen said. "It’s great being on the podium with your teammates. We really couldn’t have done better today. We know that we’ll come back even stronger next year. It’s a good start [to next season], or a good end [to this season], I don’t know."
But don’t count out the Colorado Buffaloes, added 20K winner Mads Ek Stroem.
"We just have to be more consistent and try to work even harder," he said. "We have a really young squad, especially in Nordic all the girls are freshmen. Just give us one more, two more years and we’ll be back [on top] I’m pretty sure about that."
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Chase Campbell, a Park City High School sophomore, has a busy summer schedule, including the USA Cycling Mountain Bike National Championships on July 22-23.