Utes win Colorado Invitational
The Utah ski team closed out a team victory in the Colorado Invitational with a strong Nordic performance on Sunday, as both the men’s and women’s teams were the highest-scoring team in each classical race. In alpine, Endre Bjertness won his second-straight giant slalom race in an RMISA qualifier.
In the men’s 20-kilometer classical, Utah had three skiers in the top six, led by a third-place finish from Niklas Persson. It was his second podium finish of the weekend. Kevin Bolger crossed the finish fourth, which tied his best career finish. Noé Bellet finished sixth to round out the scorers for Utah. Oscar Ivars earned a top-10 finish in 10th while Nick Hendrickson was 11th and Tucker McCrerey 14th.
"Both the men’s and women’s team had great performances," Persson said. "The men’s race started out really slow but going out on the third out of four laps the pace started to speed up. Being a little far back when the guys in front started to go for it, Bolger and I had to push hard to catch the first two guys. It wasn’t really there today but a good overall result."
In the women’s 15K classical, Veronika Mayerhofer earned her fifth podium of the season with a second-place run. Sloan Storey was fifth (her fifth top-five finish) with Natalia Müller finishing eighth (her fifth top-10 of the year). Josefin Nilsson was 11th with Anna-Lena Heynen 23rd.
"Today we’re driving home from our sixth race in fourteen days, spanning three states," Utah head Nordic coach Abi Holt said. "I think it’s fair to say that the entire RMISA circuit headed to the starting line feeling tired this morning. Days like this are a battle physically and mentally, so I am extra pleased with this team’s results today. Niklas and Veronika both pulled off double podium finishes this weekend. The entire team is fit, tough, and scrappy on the race course. We skied great today, and we’re ready for a weekend off."
The Utes finished the meet with 649 points, beating Denver (587) and Colorado (583) for their second team win of the year. Montana State was fourth (516.5) with New Mexico fifth (514). The Utes were the highest-scoring Nordic team of the meet and also earned more overall points in the giant slalom than any other team.
"I am extremely impressed with our overall team performance at the CU Invite," Utah Director of Skiing Kevin Sweeney said. "It was an excellent opportunity to race on the 2016 NCAA venues. We were very effective in striking the podium in every event as well as putting three scorers consistently in the top ten. It was impressive. There was excellent team skiing going on, good strategizing, excellent motivation and preparation and some real gutsy performances across the board.
"Both squads are super tight and having a lot of fun being together, and I think this is the true catalyst for our performance. Hands down, this was some great racing. We wrapped up this period with some excellent FIS points, NCAA qualifying and seeding points, and confidence. Kudus to the staff for excellent preparation. Super proud of our Utes!"
In alpine at the RMISA giant slalom qualifier, which does not count towards any team scoring but is used as an extra opportunity for skiers to earn qualification points for the NCAA Championships, Bjertness won his second-straight giant slalom race after recording the fastest first run of the day. He has two wins and three podium finishes this year. Dominic Demschar earned his first podium finish of the year with a third-place run. Martin Grasic finished 12th with Ty Sprock in 17th while Joergen Brath did not finish his first run.
In the women’s race, Chloe Fausa earned her third podium finish of the year with a second-place run after skiing the fastest first run of the day. Julie Mohagen finished 12th with Roni Remme 13th while Teagen Palmer was 20th.
The Utes take a break from collegiate competition for the next several weeks before traveling to the New Mexico Invitational Feb. 20-21.
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The Miners ended up on the wrong side of a close game on senior night but are still fighting for playoff seeding.