Utes finish third in Montana
Veronika Mayerhofer finished second in the women’s 15-kilometer classic to lead the Utah Ski Team on the final day of the Montana State Invitational. The Utes finished third overall in the team standings.
Mayerhofer’s second-place finish marks her third podium in four races this year. Natalia Müller finished 11th while Anna-Lena Heynen placed 19th. Sloan Storey — who had finished in the top five in the first three races of the season — and Josefin Nilsson both did not finish.
"Although it would be sometimes much easier, I never wish I was an indoor athlete who doesn’t have to care about weather at all," Mayerhofer said. "Today was one of those crazy days when your adrenaline level is already peaking before the start of the race. It was snowing like crazy and we had a mass start race in the classic style — not the easiest challenge for the coaches or the athletes!
"We did our best, supported each other and therefore I am very proud of everyone. I was very lucky today, my skis were fast and, at the same time, I had great kick. It was not an easy race, I fought hard and I am very happy with my second place today."
In the men’s 20K classic, Niklas Persson picked up his third top-10 finish of the year with a fourth-place result. Kevin Bolger, who has been in the top 10 in every race this year, placed seventh, followed by Noé Bellet in 14th. Nick Hendrickson was 19th, followed by Oscar Ivars in 21st and Tucker McCrerey in 30th.
"Today’s 20K classic race was really tough," Persson said. "Snowy, but yet wet conditions made the race very slow. Everyone struggled out there today. We did an OK job as a team, although I know we all expected to do better. Personally, this week’s been difficult. I’ve been struggling with a cold that I got after last week’s invite at home. Considering the circumstances I guess I can’t be too disappointed."
Utah had 598 points to finish third behind meet-winner Denver (629) and Colorado (625). New Mexico (501) and Montana State (465) completed the top five. Utah had the highest-scoring women’s Nordic team of the meet.
"I am very impressed with how we charged the entire Montana State Invite," Utah Director of Skiing Kevin Sweeney said. "We didn’t necessarily score our best — we had some difficulties finishing in alpine and we had some issues today in Nordic. As a whole though, I think we really charged. I was very impressed with this group. We are making podium appearances and have some good depth, but we will probably chalk it up to a meet where we learned a bit more about ourselves as well as our competition. Denver and Colorado are strong and New Mexico is, too. It’s a very competitive field in the Western Region. We are going to have to be full strength and firing 100 percent to take the win. This group has a lot of confidence, but today was a tough one. We still ended up with some solid results so I’m very impressed with that.
"We have a super quick turnaround for the Colorado Invite," Sweeney continued. "We are going to rest up and take care of some of issues that sidetracked us here today in Montana. MSU did a great job hosting and hats off to them for putting on a nice event for us."
The Colorado Invitational began on Friday with the men’s and women’s slalom night races at Howelsen Hill in Steamboat Springs, Colorado.
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