LAKE PLACID, N.Y. -- Colorado locked up its 20th national title at the NCAA Skiing Championship on Saturday at Whiteface Mountain, as the Buffaloes had two podium finishers in the women’s slalom to help hold off the Denver for the team title.
Colorado closed with 505.0 points thanks in part to a sixth-place finish by Thea Grosvold and a seventh place showing by Jessica Honkonen. Though the men’s slalom trio didn’t land on the podium, Henrik Gunnarsson (12th), Adam Zika (13th) and Kasper Hietanen (20th) each landed in the top 20 to score valuable points that helped the Buffaloes ward off a charge by the defending Pioneers, who had five top-four finishes on Saturday.
“It’s absolutely great. It’s always a great feeling and this one was even more because it was very dramatic until the very end,” Colorado head coach Richard Rokos said. “There was no room for error, we displayed a great deal of discipline, but they made 12 mistake-free runs, that’s so unique in slalom, it’s almost unprecedented.”Denver, which has won a record 22 NCAA championships in its program’s storied history, began to mount its push early in the day as Trevor Philp, Espen Lysdahl and Sebastian Brigovic were second, third and fourth, respectively in the men’s race. Philp was the final skier down the mountain in the second run, but was unable to hang on to his slim lead as Vermont’s Dominique Garand’s combined time of 1:55.03 was .17 faster, leading him to the top of the podium for the Catamounts.
Garand’s teammate Taylor Wunsch was fifth overall for First Team All-America status, while Second Team honors went to Montana State’s David Neuhauser, Utah’s Andy Trow, Alaska-Anchorage’s Sean Alexander, New Hampshires Philippe Rivet and Middlebury’s Robert Cone, who won the national title in GS on Thursday.
The Buffaloes had a 10.0 point lead over Utah heading into the women’s slalom, the final event of the championships hosted by St. Lawrence. However, the Utes were unable to land any of their skiers in the top-10, and three top-15 finishes by Colorado clinched the national crown. Denver was propelled into second place on the podium thanks to individual national champion Monica Huebner, whose second run time of 58.11 won her the national title just ahead of UVM’s Kristina Riis-Johannessen. Riis-Johannessen had the lead after the opening run, but a late bobble in the final gates of her second run slowed her down just enough for Huebner to claim a .25-second win in 1:56.52.
Huebner’s teammate Kristine Haugen was third overall, helping Denver climb into the second place spot, while Colby’s Mardene Haskell and UVM’s Elli Terwiel were first-team All-Americas in the top five. Grosvold and Honkonen were joined on the second team by New Mexico’s GS national champion Mateja Robnik, Middlebury’s Mary Sackbauer and UVM’s Laurence St. Germain.
Utah closed in third place in the team standings with 471.0 points, seven behind Denver. Vermont and New Mexico rounded out the top five.
“The course was great, it worked out very well, it maintained the quality for the first and last race,” added Coach Rokos. “There was equal conditions for all. Coming in with seven points cushion, that doesn’t help you. I had 12 very tough minutes. I’ve given all the rings we’ve won to my wife Helena and she still has two fingers left, it may be a little motivation to continue past year 25.”
Saturday’s victory was the 20th NCAA championship for the University of Colorado. Meanwhile, the eight individual champions throughout the week came from seven different schools, the most since the sport went coed in 1983.