With the 2015/2016 season officially in the rearview, FasterSkier is excited to unveil its annual award winners for this past winter. Votes stem from the FS staff, scattered across the U.S. and Canada, and while not scientific, they are intended to reflect a broader sense of the season in review.
We kicked off the series Monday with Juniors of 2016: Katharine Ogden and Sean Doherty. This second set of honors goes to outstanding male and female skiers on the U.S. NCAA collegiate circuit.
Mads Strøm, University of Colorado-Boulder
Even after tallying four wins in a row and six victories this past season, the University of Colorado-Boulder (CU) junior Mads Ek Strøm was still nervous before his final competitions of the 2016 college race season.
Nerves, however, didn’t stand a chance with the 24-year-old Norwegian.
By the time he finished the men’s 10-kilometer freestyle — the first of two nordic races at the NCAA Skiing Championships event this year in Steamboat Springs, Colo. — Strøm had skied to his seventh win of the season and fifth win in a row, securing himself as the most distinguished CU skier of all time.
Prior to Strøm, the most season wins accomplished by a CU skier were six, set first in 1989 by Per Kare Jakobsen and then again in 1999 by Ove Erik Tronvoll.
“I was so nervous,” Strøm said of coming into the 10 k, according to CUBuffs.com. “I just had to find good skis, good pacing, and push it as hard as possible. It was definitely the best win of the year. Pulling it off when it matters the most is great.”
An Oslo native, Strøm began attending CU in 2014. He made his debut on the NCAA Championships podium during his freshman year, when he won the 2014 men’s 20 k freestyle race at Soldier Hollow in Midway, Utah.
One podium only warranted more. After his freshman year, Strøm continued to chase the top spots, garnering 25 career podium finishes and 13 individual titles by the time he won this year’s men’s 10 k event, according to CU’s Sport Information Specialist Curtis Snyder.
However, Strøm’s goal for this college season wasn’t to win just one of the NCAA Championships races. He wanted both.
“Obviously I wanted to win,” Strøm had told FasterSkier after he finished second in the men’s 15 k classic mass start Sun Valley SuperTour in December — before the college season started. “I haven’t gotten quite there yet because I have been training almost 100 hours every month since May. I’ve planned that in one month from now I’m going to be in better shape and my plan is to win both races at NCAA’s.”
Strøm’s plan to wait and win worked. When he crossed the finish line first in the men’s 20 k classic mass start, the second nordic race of NCAA Championships, Strøm accomplished his season goal and much more.
After winning eight out of 12 races in the collegiate race schedule, Strøm now holds the record for most season victories of any CU skier, alpine or nordic.
“He became the fifth CU skier to sweep the individual NCAA Championships in program history, joining John Skajem (alpine, 1987), Line Selnes (1988, Nordic), current Nordic assistant Jana Weinberger (2006, Nordic), Maria Grevsgaard (2008, Nordic) and Lucie Zikova (2008, alpine),” Snyder wrote in an email regarding Strøm’s NCAA podium sweep.
The Norwegian’s achievements this season don’t end with the collegiate race scene. Strøm also finished fourth and ninth at the SuperTour season opener in West Yellowstone, Mont., in the 15 k freestyle and sprint, respectively.
Linn Eriksen, University of Denver
One out of two. For every two college races University of Denver (DU) sophomore Linn Eriksen raced this year, she won one. That includes the final nordic college race of the season at NCAA Championships: the women’s 15 k classic mass start.
Also from Oslo, Eriksen, 21, commanded this year’s NCAA Championships mass start, striding away to a 19.9-second victory over the University of New Mexico’s (UNM) Kati Roivas.
Though Eriksen has stood at the top of the podium before as Norway’s four-time Junior National Champion, her victory in this year’s 15 k was her first NCAA title, as well as her first NCAA podium appearance.
Her breakthrough at this year’s NCAA’s also helped the Denver Pioneers to their 23rd national championship.
“Moritz [Madlener] and Linn [Eriksen] have led the team all year and they did it again today,” DU head nordic coach David Stewart said according to a DU press release. “Linn skied a masterful race, leading from start to finish, breaking away on the last lap to ski to a solo win.”
Eriksen’s other notable accolades from the season include first-place finishes in women’s 5 k freestyle and 15 k classic at the Montana State University invite, victories in both races at the UNM invite, second place in the 5 k freestyle at the University of Utah invite, third place in the 15 k classic CU invite, second place in the 5 k freestyle at the DU Regional race, and her top-10 finish in the first race of NCAA Champioships, the 5 k freestyle where she placed eighth.
After finishing the season as an All-American in both NCAA Championships races, Eriksen’s name will not go unnoticed at the start of next year’s college race season, her junior year.
“Spring break could not have been kicked off in a better way,” Eriksen wrote after her NCAA title on Instagram.