BEAVER CREEK and MINTURN, Colo. - Led by a win in the women's 15-km classic from Veronika Mayerhofer, the Utah ski team won the RMISA Championship/NCAA West Regional on Saturday afternoon.
Utah scored 662 points for the win, besting Colorado (634). Denver finished third (595) followed by Montana State (521) and New Mexico (473) in fourth and fifth. Utah had the top Nordic team in the meet, and the top women's squad.
"Overall I am extremely impressed with the results that we ended up with at the Regional Championships," Utah Director of Skiing Kevin Sweeney said. "I can honestly say that it was a very hard-fought competition. There was no event that was easily contested and each and every event was very challenging. The World Cup alpine venue at Beaver Creek presented a tremendous racing opportunity, and the Nordic course at Minturn was very technical and very challenging, so each day we really had to go out there and give it our best shot, and we definitely did that.
"It certainly was not an easy victory for us. We had a few injuries that we are dealing with and what pulled through once again was not only our depth, but also I think the skiers understanding how the team scoring works, and everyone really charged. Once again, I am super impressed. The team is really fired up. We have some great chemistry. It's very rewarding to win the regular-season championship and to follow that up by winning the regionals. We will make our final selections on the NCAA squad this week. The coaching staff has some tough decisions to make, but there is no doubt we have a team that is very competitive and really looking forward to the NCAA Championships in Steamboat."
The women's Nordic team led the day with the Utes finishing first, second and fourth for 108 points. In addition to Mayerhofer, who picked up her second-straight race win, Sloan Storey finished second with Natalia Müller in fourth. It was Storey's fourth podium of the year and Müller tied her best finish of the season. Josefin Nilsson finished 16th wile Anna-Lena Heynen was 22nd.
"The last race weekend with the entire team is over," Mayerhofer said. "I had some tears in my eyes during the whole day but I am so grateful for all the experiences with the best and most fun team I can imagine. I really enjoyed today's 15k race, especially because there were so many Utah fans cheering for us. But also because I had so much energy, very good skis and a lot of sunshine in my face. There is no better way to go home after a week and a half with two individual victories and winning the regional championship as a team. Thanks to the coaches, who did an awesome job preparing skis and supporting us in every possible way!"
The men's 20-km race was marred by an early crash, but Niklas Persson rallied to finish third for his sixth podium of the year. Kevin Bolger finished fifth for his fifth top-five finish of the season. Oscar Ivars placed 14th followed by Nick Hendrickson in 17th and Noé Bellet in 18th.
"Today's mass start race in Minturn definitely got exciting," Persson said. "A big crash at the start of the race spread out the field. Myself, as well as some other of the Utah skiers, crashed pretty hard. Oscar and I both broke poles, and ended up in the back of the field. I slowly worked my way up thru the field, with help from Bolger slowing down the pace in the front. I'm very happy with the team performance as well as my third place considering the circumstances."
In alpine in the slalom, Endre Bjertness led the men's race with a fourth-place finish, his fifth top five of the year. Joergen Brath recorded his sixth top-10 finish of the year with a sixth-place run after running the second-fastest first run of the day. Dominic Demschar finished 18th followed by Martin Grasic in 19th with Ty Sprock finishing 24th.
In the women's slalom, Teagen Palmer tied her season-best finish with a ninth-place run. Julie Mohagen finished 15th while Roni Remme did not finish her first run.
The Utes return to action at the NCAA Championships, March 9-12 in Steamboat Springs, Colo. Utah's NCAA roster will be announced in the coming days. The Utes are allowed 12 skiers, three per discipline per gender.