Contact CU Independent Sports Staff Writer Olivia Butrymovich at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The University of Colorado ski team entered the Rocky Mountain Intercollegiate Ski Association (RMISA) Championships on Friday full of confidence and looking to pickup some hardware. After a successful regular season, the team traveled to Beaver Creek and Minturn, Colorado for their final races of the year before the NCAA Championships next week.
The CU Nordic team’s Mads Stroem, a junior from Norway, dominated the men’s 10k freestyle race, winning it with a time of 22:12.6. Stroem defeated the second place finisher by more than 40 seconds. The Buffs’ other top men’s finisher was fellow Norwegian, freshmen Petter Reistad, who finished the course with a time of 23:23.5.
In the 5k freestyle, sophomore Ane Johnsen led the charge for the CU women. Johnsen finished in sixth place with a time of 13:41.4.
On the downhill side of things, the Buffs took the giant slalom course on the world famous Birds of Prey course, where the alpine world championships were held last year. The Buffs had a rather rough day on the hill, with freshman Ola Johansen suffering a fall in training. He was unable to head the team in his favorite event.
Without Johansen, senior Henrik Gunnarsson took the top spot for Colorado. Gunnarsson finished the day with a second place finish, his best of the season, with a time of 2:19.61. He was followed closely behind by freshman teammate Max Luukko, who rounded out the top three with a time of 2:19.71.
The women’s team struggled on the tough terrain. The Buffs’ top finisher was freshman Tonje Trulsrud, who finished her two runs in eighth place with a time of 2:21.50.
Colorado finished day one of the RMISA Championships in third place with 297 points, behind the University of Denver (304) and the University of Utah (361).
At Friday evening’s banquet, four MVPs (one man and woman from Nordic and alpine teams) were recognized for winning the most points accumulated throughout the regular season. Two of the four awards went to Stroem and Johansen for their success during the season.
Johansen closed out the regular season with two wins, four second place finishes and eight total podium appearances in 10 races. Johansen didn’t finish a race lower than fifth place. He was named the MVP by a 50-point margin; the runner-up was CU’s other downhill freshman, Luukko. Gunnarsson finished in fourth.
Stroem won the award in his category by just barely edging out Utah’s Niklas Persson by four points. Stroem won four races in the regular season, earned two silver finishes and was a top-two finisher in six of eight races. This was the second consecutive MVP win for a CU men’s Nordic team member.
The Buffs had some work to do as day two of the competition began. Stroem once again blew away the completion, picking up his second win of the weekend in the 20k freestyle. The newly named MVP crossed the finish line with a time of 51:08.6.
Colorado also came away with a silver finish in the 20k freestyle, after Reistad crossed the finish line nearly 40 seconds after Stroem, 51:48.4.
The women’s team also had a better day on the Minturn course after a fifth place finish in the 15k freestyle from junior Jesse Knori. Knori finished the course with a time of 47:26.2. She was followed closely by CU’s other top finisher Christina Rolandsen. The freshmen crossed the line in sixth with a time of 47:43.7.
Back on the big mountain, the Buffs prepared for a competitive day of slalom. With Johansen sidelined again, the team relied heavily on some of its other talent, notably Luukko, who delevered a spectacular performance on the big stage. The freshmen pulled out a win over DU’s Taylor Shiffrin (the brother of Team USA’s Mikaela Shiffrin) with a combined time of 1:41.37. The team’s other top finisher was senior Adam Zika, who rounded out the podium with a time of 1:42.06.
The women’s downhill team had a much better showing during Saturday’s slalom portion of the meet. Senior Thea Grosvold finished out the day in sixth place with a time of 1:57.70. She was followed by senior Jessica Honkonen who finished seventh with a time of 1:58.26.
After winning two of the four events on day two, the Buffs moved past Denver to take possession of second place with 634 points. The Buffs’ efforts were not enough to outdo Utah, who won the RMISA title with 662 points.
Utah and Denver will prove to be two of Colorado’s toughest opponents again in the upcoming NCAA Championships. The Colorado team has won 20 national championships in its history, the most recent won in the 2015 season. The NCAA Championship races begin next week on Wednesday, March 9, in Steamboat Springs, Colorado.