CU SKIING: Buffs Vault Into Second At NCAA Championships

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STOWE, Vt. — The University of Colorado ski team enjoyed a solid morning on the Trapp Family Lodge’s cross country layout, as six top 14 finishes here Friday propelled the Buffaloes from fifth to second heading into the final day of the 66th annual NCAA Skiing Championships.

Utah, which came into the day a half-point behind Dartmouth for the lead, pulled well ahead of the field and ended the day with 426½ points, while the Buffs vaulted three spots into second place with 361. Dartmouth dropped into third (359), with Vermont (350) and defending champion Denver (272) rounding out the top five.

Utah and Colorado dominated Friday’s Nordic classical races, with all 12 skiers between the two occupying the top 27 spots in the men’s and women’s races; Utah scored 174 points, buoyed by three top seven finishes in the women’s event, while Colorado scored 143. Vermont (105), Dartmouth (100) and Denver (44) all dropped in the standings after being outdistanced by the Utes and Buffaloes.

Utah’s 65½- point lead entering the Saturday’s final events – the slalom – is the 10th largest since the sport went coed in 1983; the school with the nine larger margins than the Utes this year all went on to win the title (Utah now owns six of the top 10 margins with two events remaining). Of the nine previous times, the slalom closed the championships four times, with point swings ranging from gaining 69 to losing 53½.

In the women’s 15-kilometer classical race, Dartmouth’s Katharine Ogden pulled away from the field and won in a 46:25.7 time. She had the lead at the first measured split (2-kilometers) and increased her lead in nearly every split until the finish, ahead by 11 seconds at the 10k mark, then by 17 at the 12k split and by 16 with two kilometers remaining. Utah’s Julia Richter stayed with her for a while and finished second in 46:49.1.

CU sophomore Hedda Baangman claimed the bronze spot in 47:15.2, as she was in third for the bulk of the race in earning first-team All-America honors. She held off Utah’s Guro Jordheim, who took fourth in 47:19.8. Those four skiers were nearly a minute ahead of the rest of the pack.

“I’m super happy that I made it on the podium,” Baangman said. “I’m not in my top shape, so that’s not great, but I’m really happy with third place. We had a great day as a team, so much better than Wednesday. I’m happy with my race, I think it was a solid race. I’m so excited to watch the alpine team, I’ve never watched an alpine race live, I think they’re in good shape and will do well. We moved into second place, so hopefully they’re excited to defend that position.”

Senior Christina Rolandsen finished her Buffalo career with a second-team All-America effort, clocking in at 48:28.0 which was good for 10th place. Rounding out the CU women’s contingent was junior Anne Siri Lervik placed 13th in 49:14.0.

It’s scary, it feels good. It’s fun. It’s been crazy,” Rolandsen said after the final race of her collegiate career. “I don’t think it’s going to hit me until you’re supposed to train for the next season. It’s exciting to see what comes next. I’m happy. I think there’s a lot of good skiers here, I think we were a little surprised with how fast the others are. But I’m happy with my results, both in top 10. It’s been a fun week and I’m excited to watch tomorrow. Anything can happen.

“The alpine team was telling us that it will be a risky day tomorrow, so it should be fun,” she added. “I think what I’ll miss most the people and how we train all fall and all winter. When we have the workouts, the training and the trips, it’s easier when you have people doing the same thing. Now that I’m done, I have to figure out what I’m doing. I’m in psychology, so I want to go on with that, but we’ll see where that leads me.”

Utah outpointed Dartmouth, 93-86, in the women’s race, with CU (73) and UVM (71) next; all four schools had their racers in the top 13, with the only the skier in that group from Denver.

In the men’s 20-kilometer race, New Mexico’s Ricardo Izquiero-Bernier broke away from a small pack of skiers over the course of the final kilometer and won in a 55:50.6 time. That edged Alaska-Anchorages Sigurd Roenning, who finished in 55:56.5. Utah’s Bie Maximilian captured third in 55:57.7.

Senior Alvar Alev wrapped his CU career with a first-team All-American effort, claiming fourth in 56:01.2. In the lead pack the majority of the race, he swung between the top spot, which he held by a half-second with three kilometers to go, to as low as eighth.

“I ended up in fourth place,” Alev said. “I guess it was a pretty exciting race, there were about 10 of us together until the last lap. Anything can happen in a mass start race, it was up in the air, a pole can break or somebody can crash. I guess fourth is okay, I’ve done better in classic this season, but I’ll take it.”

“Utah had a really good day today, they opened up a gap on us. It’s going to be tough, but anything is possible,” he added. “Tomorrow, every CU athlete has to perform their best. We’ll go and cheer them on, I don’t know how much help we’ll be, at least some mental support.”

Freshman Eric Dengerud, who was the individual champion in Wednesday’s freestyle race, finished ninth in 56:51.9, which earned him second-team All-America honors in the classic discipline. Sophomore Sondre Bollum bolstered Alev and Dengerud with a 14th place time in 57:28.6.

“It was a good day,” Nordic coach Jana Weinberger said. “Utah did really well today, but at least we passed most of the schools and back into second place. I think it helps moving up to second, everybody was out here cheering, the team spirit was high, so hopefully it works out tomorrow.”

“Some of our skiers were more or less happy with the races, but overall as a team we did well and that’s what is important,” she continued. “Alvar probably could have been on the podium today, his skis were a little slippery at the end, but they were fast on the downhills. Hedda, the shape she’s in now, third is very good. I don’t think she was in top shape for these championships, hopefully she learned from it, we learned from it, next year we’ll be better.”

“Christina has been here for four years, she’s always smiling and upbeat, we’ll miss her next year,” Weinberger said of her popular senior. “Alvar, we were lucky to have him for a second year, he performed well. He was a good teammate, a good guy, he worked out well and hopefully he enjoyed his time here.”

“Miracles happen on the last day of the championship,” head coach Richard Rokos said. “Any thinking about slalom is scary. Even today in training, people were all over the place. It was icy, it’s a demanding hill, there is a lot of terrain in it. It was good training, it’s more demanding than anything we’ve seen. It’s a course we don’t have in Colorado, but it’s challenging for everybody, so we’ll see how it comes out.”

“That’s the beauty of championships, between alpine and Nordic we are fighting different teams,” Rokos added. “Sometimes one team has it all together, like Utah this year. But usually it goes between schools who only compete in one or maybe they’re stronger in one. For example, Northern Michigan doesn’t have an alpine team but they’re really good in Nordic. The last day will be exciting.”

The slalom races Saturday will start early: the men are first with their first run at 7 a.m. MST, with the women’s first run at 8 a.m.; the men’s second run is set for 10 a.m. and the women’s second run at 11 a.m. The weather forecast calls for partly cloudy skies with minimal winds; temperatures for the first runs should hover around 20 degrees, warming some 10 degrees fo the final runs.

NOTES: Today marked a special anniversary for CU head coach Richard Rokos: 40 years ago in 1979, he defected to Austria from the then-communist former Czechoslovakia. “I called my wife, today is actually International Woman’s Day in Czech,” Rokos said. “The first four or five years, I don’t think she appreciated that gift as much, but later. But 40 years, yes, rock and roll. Ben and Jerry (Vermont’s home state ice cream company), they’ve also been around for 40 years.” … Colorado, which has come from behind to win the title on several occasions, owns to date the largest comeback in the NCAA Skiing Championships history: in 2013 at Middlebury, the Buffs rallied from 54 points down going into the last two events to win by 43 points ... CU and Utah are chasing the 517th NCAA championship by Pac-12 member schools and the fourth in 2018-19; the Buffaloes won the women’s cross country title in November … With CU and Utah earning an individual title here, the Pac-12 count now stands at 2,336 … this will be just the eighth time in the 37 years since skiing went coed that the slalom races will finish off the NCAA’s; it’s almost always the longer cross country events. The last time was in 2015 … Barring catastrophe by the four teams ahead of the defending champion Denver, there won’t be a repeat titlist for the eighth straight year (since the Pioneers claimed three straight from 2008-10) … Only Colorado, Utah and Montana State had all six of their skiers score points (needed to finish in the top 30; those finishing between 31st and 40th earned zero points) … Dartmouth is the last eastern school to win in the east, doing so in 2007; since, Denver (2009), CU (2011, 2013, 2015) and Utah (2017) have won the titles held on eastern turf.