MIDWAY, Utah -- Anja Gruber of Vermont and Rune Oedegaard of Colorado defended their NCAA titles in the women’s and men’s Nordic classic races, respectively, on Thursday at Soldier Hollow.Denver, a 21-time national champion, had a strong showing with all six men’s and women’s skiers finishing in the top 15 and five placing in the top 10. That allowed the Pioneers to overtake first-day leader Utah in the team points race. Denver, which scored 169 points on Thursday, has built a 299-248 lead against Utah. Colorado is a close third with 240.5 points and New Mexico is in fourth place with 231 points with two days of competition remaining.
It was an overcast day with temperatures in the high 30’s at race time. However, with the forecast calling for rain and temperatures climbing into the low 50’s by early afternoon, the start time of the men’s race was moved up 40 minutes to 10:20 a.m. as the final women’s competitors were still on the course.
Gruber, a senior from Leutkrich, Germany, took the women’s 5K classic in 13:38.4. It wasn’t the first time she had competed at Solider Hollow this year. Gruber placed fourth in the 10K classic at the 2014 U.S. Cross Country Championships in January.
Gruber finished nearly nine seconds ahead of Sylvia Nordskar of Denver, who clocked in at 13:47.7. Eva Severrus of New Mexico finished third in 14:01.0.
In addition to Nordskar’s second-place effort, Denver had Makalya Cappel (seventh) and Silje Benum (13th) finish in the top 15 to earn 80 points.
Oedegaard, a junior from Molde, Norway, defended his title as well in the men’s 10K classic, completing the course in 24:34.5. It was Oedegaard’s 13th career win to set the new Colorado Nordic skiing record.
Denver had all three of its racers finish in the top eight, led by runner-up Pierre Guedon (24:45.8). Moritz Madlener and Trygve Markset finished fifth and eighth, respectively, for the Pioneers as they accumulated 89 points.
Utah’s Niklas Persson finished third in 25:00.9. However, none of his men’s teammates placed in the top 25. On the women’s side for the Utes, Anna Svendson was eighth (14:24.8) and Sloan Storey placed ninth (14:26.0).
Utah accumulated a combined 83 points in the men’s and women’s classic events, allowing them to stay in second place. Colorado, the defending national champion, closed the gap on the Utes for second place with 113 points.