CU’s ski team is off to a hot start at the 58th Annual NCAA Skiing Championships in Stowe, Vt.
In search of their 18th national title, the Buffs amassed 408 points after Wednesday’s four events.
At the midpoint of the championship, No. 2 CU won two events and had five top five performers.
Colorado leads Dartmouth (362), Utah (353.3) and No. 1 Vermont (349.5). The Buffaloes are set at an 800-point pace, which would be the first under the current scoring format adopted in 2009. Schools leading at the midway point have won eight of the previous 10 titles.
The women’s giant slalom opened up the events. CU junior Sara Hjertman earned second place with a time of 2:06.51. Sophomore Erika Ghent was fifth in 2:06.97.
Hjertman and Ghent both earned first-team All-American honors for their top five performances.
CU edged out Vermont by half a point and won the race with 104 points.
Hjertman missed regionals because of a concussion, and said she was happy to get back on the slopes and perform so well.
“The atmosphere is amazing right now, everybody is so happy,” Hjertman said in a news release.
Ghent said that Vermont’s snow differs from that in the west, being slippery on top and harder underneath, but doesn’t believe it negatively impacted her team.
“I don’t think that matters because we’re all good skiers and as long as we are good technical skiers, things will work out,” Ghent said. “We’re all really happy with how we did as a team.”
After the first run of the men’s GS, the Buffs had three in the top nine, but decided to have a more conservative second run to improve the team’s overall score.
“In alpine, I know both guys and girls gave up a lot on their second runs in order to finish without problems and to maintain the point lead,” head coach Richard Rokos said. “That’s the unfortunate part of competition, to go a little slower individually to win as a team.”
As a team, CU placed in second with 92 points, behind New Mexico’s 98. Senior Gabriel Rivas led the way for the Buffs, coming in sixth in 2:03.48. Freshman Andreas Haug came in 13th and posted CU’s best effort by a freshman since the GS at the 2003 NCAA Competition.
The men placed third as a team in the 10-km race. Senior Vegard Kjoelhamar was second in the men’s 10km, clocking in at 26:10.3, less than five seconds behind the winner.
“I pushed through and got stronger in the later part of the race,” Kjoelhamar said. “I did really well the last couple of kilometers, but in the final few meters I think I lost some time, I got really tired.”
The women placed three in the top nine in their 5km race. Junior Eliska Hajkova had a second place finish in 14:01.7, with sophomore Joanne Reid right behind her in third place in 14:32.0. Senior Alexa Turzian came in ninth in 14:49.8.
“The strategy was just to go hard, it’s such a short race so give it everything you got,” Hajkova said. “It helped that we went to U.S. Nationals right before the season, it was a long time ago but we remember the conditions from then, with the lower altitude and the snow. I had some problems with my back in the beginning of the season, so I’ve just been getting healthier it went on.”
Officials expect an overnight storm in the area, so giant slalom was moved up a day, and there will be no events on Thursday. The championships resume Friday with the classical cross country races.
“It was a great day, really,” CU Nordic coach Bruce Cranmer said. “You can always wish for the perfect day but at championships, those are hard to come by. To get one down, everybody is a little more relaxed.”
Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Marlee Horn at Marlee.firstname.lastname@example.org.
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