Feb. 18, 2009


Courtesy of Colorado

BOULDER — The University of Colorado ski team is heading west to the Lake Tahoe area for the annual Rocky Mountain Intercollegiate Ski Association Championships, but despite the Buffaloes being the defending RMISA champion and riding a three-meet winning streak, the focus here this week is to improve the seedings for the next month’s NCAA Championships.


Chances are remote that CU will qualify a full 12-skier team for nationals, regardless of what happens this week, which also doubles as the NCAA West Regional.  But the Buffs appear to be in solid position to send 11 to Maine in search of the school’s 18th national title in skiing.  Colorado’s last title came in 2006 at Steamboat Springs.


The RMISA Championships will utilize two venues, the Mt. Rose Ski Area about 20 miles southwest of Reno, Nev., for alpine events Thursday and Friday, and the Auburn Ski Club in Truckee, Calif., for the Nordic competition Friday and Saturday.


 “If we can win the RMISA Championship, that’s a great bonus, but this week is often more about firming up the best seeds you can get for your team for the national championship,” head coach Richard Rokos said.  “The Nordics are once again peaking at the right time, and we are in excellent position with the seeds there, so it’s just as important to monitor their health.  As far as alpine is concerned, we have an opportunity to improve a few seeds but should be able to qualify a full team.”


Since the sport went coed in 1983, Colorado and Utah are tied for the most RMISA titles with 10; Denver (four), New Mexico and Wyoming (one each) claimed the other six.  Nine of those titles are under Rokos, including the 2008 crown.  The Buffs have won 23 overall, including 11 in men’s competition between 1950 and 1982 and two in women’s action (1978, 1979).  Denver is next with 18 (14 men’s, four coed), followed by Utah (13, 10 coed, three men’s).


Colorado currently has the top three ranked men’s Nordic skiers and two of the top for women’s competitors.  Freshman Vegard Kjoelhamar (No. 1), junior Matt Gelso (No. 2) and sophomore Jesper Ostensen (No. 3) are atop the heap, with five wins amongst them this winter and 16 top five finishes in four meets.  Senior Josh Smith, who has really come on as of late, is ranked No. 10 at present, with freshman Reid Pletcher (No. 13), sophomore Patrick Neel (No. 19) and junior Karl Nygren (No. 24) placing CU’s entire men’s Nordic team in the top 25.  


Senior Maria Grevsgaard (No. 1) and sophomore Alex Turzian (No. 4) are top seeds on the women’s side, with Grevsgaard the owner of four straight wins (five overall), while Turzian has a win and four top five efforts.  The women, unfortunately, don’t have the depth they have enjoyed in past years, with freshman Katie Stege CU’s next highest ranked skier in the No. 34 position.  The top 17 seeds qualify for nationals.


In men’s alpine, junior Gabriel Rivas (No. 1 slalom, No. 4 giant slalom) leads the way, joined by juniors Stefan Hughes (Nos. 7 & 26) and Drew Roberts (Nos. 9 & 25), with Hughes and Roberts both looking to improve their GS seeds this week.  Freshman Eric Davis (Nos. 15 and 20) and senior Tony Cesolini (No. 11 GS, but No. 39 in the slalom) are also contending to make the three-man travel squad for nationals.     


As for the women, sophomores Carolina Nordh (No. 3 giant slalom, No. 6 slalom) and Katie Hartman (No. 3 slalom, No. 16 GS) are solid, with senior Lisa Perricone (No. 8 slalom, No. 14 GS) most likely the third ticketing for nationals.  Sophomore Ashley Babcock (No. 19 slalom, No. 32 GS) is CU’s next highest ranked female alpiner.


The men’s slalom leads off the meet, with the first run at 10 a.m. (MST) Thursday, followed by the women’s first run at 11:15.  On Friday, the women’s slalom will begin at 9:15 a.m. and will be run through completion, with the men’s GS at 1:15 p.m.  The women’s 5-kilometer classical race kicks off the Nordic completion at 11 a.m., with the men’s 10K at Noon.  The meet concludes Saturday with the freestyle races, the men’s 15K at 10 a.m. and the women’s 10K at 11:30 a.m.


NOTES—Colorado skiers have won 13 races this winter, the best in the west; New Mexico (nine), Alaska (seven), Utah (five) and Denver (two) have won the others … In the RMISA this winter, CU leads in the overall point standings as well as in combined and men’s Nordic points, and is second in combined and women’s alpine points while standing fourth in men’s alpine and fifth in women’s Nordic … The NCAA Championships are scheduled for March 11-14 in Bethel and Rumford, Maine, with Bates College serving as host … The United States will not field a team in next week’s World University Games in China due to assorted political reasons centering around travel.  CU head coach Richard Rokos and several Buff skiers were scheduled to participate in the games, which occur every two years.  Rokos has served as head alpine coach of the U.S. team on six previous occasions.