Utes win Utah Invitational
With a strong Nordic classical day that saw three podium finishes and seven top-10 results, the Utah ski team completed a come-from-behind victory in the Utah Invitational on Monday afternoon.
The Nordic day started at Soldier Hollow with the men’s 15-kilometer classic. Niklas Persson was part of a group of three that pulled out in the final lap before finishing second. Kevin Bolger and Noé Bellet placed eighth and ninth, respectively. Oscar Ivars finished 16th with Nick Hendrickson 19th and Tucker McCrerey 21st.
"First of all, I’m very happy that we as a team managed to win our home invitational," Persson said. "Having the support of friends and family cheering for you absolutely helped us to finish strong and to take the win. The men’s 15K race started up pretty slow but the pace slowly got higher until a six-man group got a gap. I felt strong throughout the race and had a feeling that I would be able to be up there today, fighting for the win. On the third and last lap the top three guys got a gap and it ended up that the top three guys came sprinting into the finish. It was a good race, and I’m happy with my second place. I still have some things to work on but it’s definitely going in the right direction."
In the women’s 10K classic, Sloan Storey and Veronika Mayerhofer together pulled out to a 16-second lead on the field, with Storey picking up her first career victory as the women entered the final stretch together. The Utes took four spots in the top 10 as Natalia Müller finished seventh and Josefin Nilsson placed ninth. Anna-Lena Heynen was 13th.
"Today was a great day," Storey said. "Earlier this week Veronika and I were dreaming about what would happen if we decided to take off together in the mass start and go for the one-two finish. Today we made it happen! It was so much fun being able to ski the entire race with my amazing teammate, and to get to show off all the hard work we had done this fall as a team."
The Utes came into the day six points behind Denver and Colorado in the overall Utah Invitational standings, with the Pioneers and Buffs tied for the overall lead. Colorado held a 14-point lead after the men’s classic before the Ute women outscored CU 102-75 in the women’s classic to pull ahead and take the title. Utah ended with 632 points in the win ahead of Colorado (619) and Denver (579), with Montana State (492) and New Mexico (479) rounding out the top five. The Utes were in fifth place after the first day of the Invite and as many as 72 points out of first. The Utes were the top overall Nordic team with 364 points and led the scoring in the women’s races with 331 points.
"It was a really fun day for the Utes at SoHo," Utah head Nordic coach Abi Holt said. "The tracks were perfect, our skis were kicking, and we were racing under blue skies on our home course. Even without the exceptional results, I think we would’ve left smiling today. But adding in a first RMISA victory for Sloan, three podium finishes, seven top-10 results, and an overall win for the meet was just icing. Quite simply, this is the kind of day that keeps us all coming back to this sport."
"I am so impressed with this team!" Utah Director of Skiing Kevin Sweeney said. "It was a fantastic effort by everyone at the entire Invitational. I could not have asked for more from this group as it was a great blend of excellent results and scoring as well as having our freshmen get to experience the collegiate circuit. The rally the Nordic team posted yesterday and today is tremendous. I really saw excellent skiing and team strategy. I am excited for this entire group. There is much more upside and the energy is dynamite. Our depth and ability to strike the podium are our strengths. Thank you Park City and Soldier Hollow for hosting an excellent 2016 Utah Invitational!"
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Park City is the lone undefeated team in Region 10 play after a 60-30 win over Mountain View. The Miners have three more region games in their quest to repeat as region champions.