March 12, 2009

 

Courtesy of Bates College, Hosts

BETHEL and RUMFORD, Maine -- Powered in large part by Antje Maempel and the University of Denver women's Nordic ski team, the DU Pioneers grabbed a slight lead over the University of Vermont in the race for the team title on Thursday as the NCAA Skiing Championships, hosted by Bates College, got under way after a day's delay.

Denver, looking for its second consecutive NCAA team title, has 330 points to Vermont's 327, with Alpine slalom on Friday and Nordic freestyle races on Saturday left in the Championships. The University of Utah isn't far behind, with 318 points, with Colorado (299) and Alaska-Anchorage (283) rounding out the top five.

Thursday saw the giant slalom competition get started after it was postponed due to bad weather on Wednesday.

In the women's GS at Sunday River, St. Lawrence University freshman Lindsay Cone won the individual title, a program first for the Saints. Cone notched the second best first run in the field of 34 competitors and her second run of 1:18.53 was the best in the field, giving her a combined time of 2:35.70, 0.70 seconds ahead of runner-up Estelle Pecherand of New Mexico.

"It was a beautiful day and the snow was perfect," said Cone, a native of Killington, Vt. "My skiing clicked for me. I was confident in my skiing."

"We're ecstatic," said Saints alpine coach Jeff Pier. "She started the year injured, so to come this far is tremendous. "I know they're pretty happy back (on campus) in Canton, N.Y."

Rounding out the top five were Eva Huckova of Utah, Alexandra Parker of Alaska-Anchorage and Stefanie Demetz of New Mexico.

Another freshman, Vermont's David Donaldson, won the men's GS with a two-run combined time of 2:30.24, 0.58 seconds ahead of runner-up Leif Haugen of Denver. Donaldson, a 22-year-old from Toronto, took first place in both the slalom and giant slalom earlier in the season at the Bates Carnival.

"I knew the hill very well and I had a little bit of an advantage," said Donaldson. "I made a few mistakes on the first run, but I knew on this hill you can put the hammer down and give it 100 percent, and not have to worry about dangerous terrain. You just have to absolutely go out as hard as you can in order to go out on top, and it's a good thing I did, I guess."

Rounding out the top five in the men's GS were Andrew Wagner of Middlebury, Eric Mann of Williams and Nick Cohee of Utah.

The Nordic competition went on as scheduled at Black Mountain in Rumford, Maine, with Vermont senior Juergen Uhl putting on a dominating performance in the men's 10K Classical race. His teammate Donaldson said word of Uhl's performance motivated his Catamounts teammates to excel on the slopes half an hour away at Sunday River.

Uhl finished the course in 24:14.9, over 10 seconds faster than his nearest competitor, Raphael Wunderle of Alaska-Anchorage.

"I felt sweet. I didn't even try to ski, I just went out there and trusted my coaches -- they usually do a great job with [waxing] the skis," said Uhl. "When I heard the first split, I was up by only a second, maybe, but I knew it was all downhill after that, and I knew my skis were fast enough to do it, so I felt good. It all worked out perfectly."

Rounding out the top five in the event were Jesper Ostensen of Colorado, Harald Loevensk of Denver and Franz Bernstein of Vermont.

Denver sophomore Maempel won women's 5K Classical race in a time of 13:52.4, 6.5 seconds ahead of a familiar competitor, Polina Ermoshina of New Mexico.

"My goal was to be in the top three," said Maempel. "Polina and I pretty tight in the classical races. We're always switching. I knew if I had a good day and had good skis that I could win. And everything was perfect. The skis, the snow, the weather was great."

The NCAA Skiing Championships, hosted by Bates College, resume tomorrow with the men's and women's slalom events at Sunday River.