STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, Colo. – Montana State dominated the giant slalom in the first day of the 2016 NCAA Skiing Championships with both its men’s and women’s team placing second and fourth here Wednesday on Mt. Werner to open the 2016 NCAA Championships.
“They are champions in their own way and skied their best on the right day, which to be able to do that means you are a champion,” MSU head alpine coach Kevin Francis said. “I’m really proud of them.”
David Neuhauser (1:50.93) and Benedicte Lyche (1:58.59) were the second place finishers for the Bobcats. Morten Bakke (1:51.78) tied with Vermont’s Dominique Garand for fourth in the men’s competition, while Stephanie Gartner (1:59.67) had sole control of the women’s fourth place.
“My team did really great,” Neuhauser said. “We were doing really well in training recently. Everyone kind of peaked at NCAA, which is what you want to see. I’m glad everyone got it together on race day, when it actually counts and it’s just great to see.”
Montana State is in the lead for the first day with a total of 148 points. Denver trails by 10 with 138 and Utah is not far behind with 123 points. The Bobcats’ 10-point first day lead is the smallest since 2006 when New Hampshire held a lead by just one-and-a-half points.
Wednesday’s lead is the first time the Bobcats have led at any point in the NCAA Championships since the competition became coed in 1983. They are just the 10th school to ever lead after day one in 34 coed championships.
“My goal when I came in was let’s just get a little bit better every year,” said Francis. “If we can do that, then someday we’ll be competitive and doing well. I think this is just kind of the culmination of that.”
Lyche was second after her first run time of 58.11. Ultimately Denver’s Kristine Gjelsten Haugen beat her by 59-hundredths of a second.
“In my first run I just tried to think as little as possible,” Lyche said. “I kept thinking on my training and just having those two little tasks at hand that I needed to work on, but just skied it as a training run because that’s when I normally ski the best.”
After the Bobcats’ giant slalom success, the Nordic team has a tough act to follow, but the alpine team is confident in their capabilities.
“Now the pressure’s on them I guess,” Neuhauser said. “I’m sure they’ve got it. They’re looking strong.”
The Nordic races begin on Thursday morning at 9:00 a.m. with the Women’s 5K Freestyle, followed by the Men’s 10K Freestyle at 10:30 a.m.
The alpine skiers will head to the hill again on Friday evening for the women’s slalom at 6:30 p.m. and the men’s slalom at 7:15 p.m.
“Slalom’s been our better event this year. I think just the confidence we’ve built from this will help,” said Francis. “I’m just really excited to see what they can do again. They got it so I’m fired up.”