STEAMBOAT SPRINGS – The University of Colorado is back on top of the collegiate skiing world, as after another dominant Nordic performance on Saturday, the Buffaloes cruised to the fourth largest margin of victory in history in claiming the 53rd annual NCAA Championship.
Colorado won its first national championship since 1999 and the school's 16th NCAA title in the sport. Overall, it's the 17th national ski championship for the school counting the 1982 AIAW one before the men's and women's programs were combined.
In the men's 20-kilometer freestyle race, the Buffaloes earned just one point under the maximum with its second best effort in school history. Sophomore Kit Richmond, who fell ill on Tuesday and skied sick Thursday in the 10k classic, rebounded to win in a 55:14.7 time, CU's first men's Nordic individual champ since 1999, when Ove Erik Tronvoll won the same event in Maine. Seniors Erling Christiansen and Henrik Hoye closed out their careers earning first-team All-America status, finishing third and fourth respectively in 55:20.1 and 55:39.1.
The Buffaloes dominated from practically the start. After the first of the four 5K laps, Colorado had its three skiers among the top 12. By the halfway mark of the 12.4-mile trek, the Buff skiers were running 1-2-3, with Richmond just ahead of Christiansen and Hoye, an order that held at the three-quarter mark of the race.
Alaska-Anchorage's Benjaman Sonntag cracked the Buff trio in the final lap to earn runner-up honors in a 55:16.4 time, while Dartmouth freshman Glenn Randall, who hails from Collbran, Colo., took fifth in 55:39.6.
Richmond was surprised by his win. “I would say unequivocally, yes,” he said when quizzed about it. “I was sick on Thursday, really bad flu, and had to race good for the team. I didn't really know how I was going to feel today, I just got on solid food about 24 hours ago, so I wasn't expecting this. I was expecting at best a top ten (finish) so this is phenomenal for me.” Richmond fought through the illness to finish 19th in the classic.
“I took a really short warm-up just to see how much energy I was going to have, so I went out conservative,” Richmond said. “My legs are on the threshold of blowing up on me, so I made sure that my teammates were helping out to lead a bit, switching off. All came together for me at the end and I had enough to make it count. We don't usually have a set plan, but we usually all kind of try to be in the top ten to make sure we react to the moves in the front. You don't want to be too far behind because of reaction time. If somebody goes in the front you may never catch up ever again.
“Last race, I'm very happy,” Hoye said. “We didn't plan anything out; we just started out hard. Kit had been a little bit sick. We just started out as hard as we could because we knew a lot of people are strong in the finish. So we wanted to split the pack and see what happened. Fortunately we were able to hang in there. It was awesome. I loved it.
Hoye was especially pleased with what the CU men did to set the Buffs up for the title. “It's great, especially, when we end it this way to finish three in the top four, it's just great.”
Colorado senior Jana Rehemaa recorded the “double-double” as she won the women's 15K race in 46:27.4, a full 10 seconds ahead of Alaska-Fairbanks Johanna Turunen, who finished in 46:37.4. Rehemaa, who entered her senior season with several second place showings, broke through last month and concluded her career with six consecutive wins, which included Thursday's title in the 5K classic.
“I felt kind of tired today so I couldn't break away before the last kilometer,” Rehemaa said. “I came here definitely wanting to win both of the titles. I like skating better.”
Rehemaa eventually emerged with the lead pack of three women. “I think that happened on the second lap somewhere,” she recalled. “I think we just kept skiing and the other girls couldn't keep us with us. Johanna was setting the pace. There eventually was just the three of us, and I couldn't ski away from them. So on the last k-and-a-half, I just decided to make the break and it worked.
Rehemaa, who will remain in the United States for another year to ski before returning home to her native Estonia, loved the collegiate team skiing concept. “I love that we ski for a team, not only for ourselves, and it's great to win,” she said. “I've never been hoisted in the air before. That was really fun and very special. And very cool.”
Middlebury's Evelyn Dong was third (46:38.6), while teammates supported Rehemaa's effort, as freshman Lenka Palanova took sixth in 47:55.4 and sophomore Maria Grevsgaard ninth in 48:06.2.
CU's cross country teams thus accounted for 414 points, easily outdistancing the nearest competitor, Dartmouth, with 289�. All six of CU's skiers posted top nine finishes Saturday, with 11 top nine efforts for the week. Nordic coordinator Bruce Cranmer was even surprised by his team's performance.
“It's pretty unbelievable, but pretty exciting, and it was a great day,” Cranmer said. “We knew the girls were strong and expected them to do well. But on the men's side, I just didn't see that coming, especially with Kit who had some kind of stomach flu most of the week. And Henrik was a little bit on the shaky side health-wise, too.
“Erling was fairly healthy and had a good classic race, so I thought he could be in the top three or four,” he continued. “I was hoping Henrik would be top 10 and Kit could bounce back, especially with the longer distance, and still somehow make the top 15. But getting everyone in the top 10 today, and almost for both events, is something you just can't ask for. But they did it.”
As to why for the success, Cranmer had a simple explanation.
“I think we've been skiing well, and the seniors were really psyched and focused to win as a team, not as much individually,” he said. “I also think they all got pumped up last night at the slalom and watching them do well, so they were ready to go. In cross country, a lot times you want to be positive and be focused, but you some times don't know until the day of the race and see how your body feels. Sometimes you can go out and push real easy, other times for some inexplicable reason, you just feel like you come out flat. Endurance sports just have a different feel. But the guys wanted to give absolutely everything they could regardless of their health, and weren't going to have anything left in the end.”
Colorado won with 654 team points, marking the 12th straight crown claimed by an NCAA West Region school. New Mexico finished second with 556, followed by Dartmouth, defending champion Denver and Vermont. The Buffs, which had moved from sixth to second to first after Friday night's slalom events, entered the day with a five point lead on the Lobos.
It was a day, and week, of accomplishments as well as some impressive firsts for the Buffaloes, the list mounting as the week progressed:
— CU became the first school without a full 12-skier team to win the title, as the Buffs competed here one skier short; Vermont was one short in 2001 and had the previous best effort with a runner-up showing, otherwise, schools that did not field a full team had finished as high as fourth just three other times.
— In the current scoring format, CU's sixth-place standing after the first day marked the biggest comeback to win the title, surpassing Denver in 2000, when the Pioneers were fifth after day one. In this scoring structure, the Buffs were the 10th school in as many years to win the title after going into the final day with the lead.
— Since the sport went coed in 1983, no school had rallied from worse than a fourth place finish the previous winter to win, and that had happened just twice. CU bested that, as the Buffaloes were sixth in the 2005 event at Stowe; in 1995, CU won and in 2004, New Mexico was crowned after both schools were fourth the previous season. And only one time in the 53 years has a school performed a better turnaround, that coming in 1976, when Dartmouth rebounded from an eighth place finish in '75 to tie Colorado for the title. — The Buffs had four individual champions, the 12th time in its history it has had three or more, and matching the only other occasion the school had four (1960: John Dendahl won three elements, skimeister, nordic, cross country; and Dave Butts who captured the downhill).
— Colorado's 98-point margin of victory was the fourth largest in NCAA ski history; the three larger were by Utah (by 131 in 2003), Vermont (100 in 1990) and Denver (99 in 2000).
“You dream about it for seven years, and then you execute it in four days,” Rokos said. “We proved something that was unprecedented and in theory only, that you could in fact win with a partial team,” Rokos continued. “Everyone knew it was mathematically possible, but we needed to prove it physically.. It goes to the credit of all those kids who came in and wanted to prove just that, even though we were underdogs.”
Though Colorado was the host school, it didn't necessarily have a built-in advantage other schools have had when they have hosted.
“Hosting many times is your home environment, but (Steamboat) isn't really our home, since we train in Eldora,” he said. “But with five kids of the team being Steamboat local club members all within the last couple of years, it was in many ways a great advantage.
There were three other significant occurrences in the meet: Vermont had finished as the top eastern school every year since 1978; Dartmouth snapped that 28-year run with its third place effort; the Big Green also posted their best finish ever in the coed format. Utah's eighth place finish marked the first time the Utes finished lower than fourth for the first time since a fifth place finish, ironically also in 1978.
MEN'S 20K FREE TECHNIQUE TECHNICAL DATA TD MARY PELTO (USA) CHIEF OF RACE TODD WILSON (USA) HD 0 m TEMP JURY MEMBERS STEN FJELDHEIM (NMU) MC 0 m AIR: 0 FRED FAYETTE (UVM) TC 0 m SNO 0 DOUG OUREN (USA) PL BIB NAME TEAM TIME PTS 1 11 RICHMOND, Kit CU 55:14.7 39.0 2 16 SONNTAG, Benjamin UAA 55:16.4 38.0 3 7 CHRISTIANSEN, Erling CU 55:20.1 37.0 4 19 HOYE, Henrik Wol CU 55:39.1 36.0 5 24 RANDALL, Glenn DAR 55:39.6 35.0 6 12 GREGG, Brian UAA 55:40.0 34.0 7 3 KORTHAUER, Marius UAF 56:11.7 33.0 8 13 DENGEL, Bart UAF 56:18.9 32.0 9 4 DAMMEN, Kjetil Hag UAA 56:44.4 31.0 10 10 STENE, John DU 56:56.3 30.0 11 9 REISSHAUER, Rene DU 56:58.5 29.0 12 8 OSTHUS, Anders UVM 57:03.5 28.0 13 14 SINNOTT, Michael DAR 57:04.6 27.0 14 17 ROGN, Geir Endre UNM 57:10.2 26.0 15 2 KUZZY, Garrott MID 57:21.3 25.0 16 34 DAYTON, Joshua E WSC 57:38.2 24.0 17 18 WICKSTROM, Erik UAF 57:38.4 23.0 18 28 YOUNG, Jeddediah UNM 58:05.1 22.0 19 15 FOSTER, Ryan UVM 58:05.4 21.0 20 27 KARNEDY, Hunter SLU 58:23.1 20.0 21 35 UHL, Juergen UVM 58:40.9 19.0 22 1 GRIMM, Dirk UNM 58:44.8 18.0 23 6 COOK, Bryan NMU 59:07.8 17.0 24 25 HUBBARD, Seth BAT 59:18.6 16.0 25 26 IVERSON, Mark MSU 59:19.0 15.0 26 30 GJOEMLE, Erik UU 59:30.5 14.0 27 29 PREUSSLER, Lutz UN 59:31.7 13.0 28 5 TRUE, Benjamin DAR 59:41.4 12.0 29 37 ELLEFSON, Sylvan BAT 59:53.9 11.0 30 21 SELSENG, Haavard DU 59:54.8 10.0 31 31 KIESEL, Jess UU 1:00:15.3 9.0 32 22 FIGI, Fabian UU 1:00:22.0 8.0 33 38 RICHMOND, Andrew R WSC 1:00:23.2 7.0 34 36 COE, Christian MSU 1:01:34.6 6.0 35 23 NYGREN, Karl STO 1:01:43.0 5.0 36 20 WHITCOMB, Jacob A MID 1:02:35.2 4.0 37 32 REYNOLDS, Tim MID 1:03:06.6 3.0 38 33 DITTY, Aaron MTU 1:04:09.3 2.0 39 39 KURTZ, David WSC 1:06:28.9 1.0 NCAA SKIING CHAMPIONSHIPS WOMEN'S 15K FREE TECHNIQUE OFFICIAL RESULTS 03/11/2006 TECHNICAL DATA TD ( ) CHIEF OF RACE ( ) HD 0 m TEMP JURY MEMBERS ( ) MC 0 m AIR: 0 ( ) TC 0 m SNOW 0 PL BIB NAME TEAM TIME PTS 1 1 REHEMAA, Jana CU 46:27.4 39.0 2 6 TURUNEN, Johanna UAF 46:37.4 38.0 3 5 DONG, Evelyn MID 46:38.6 37.0 4 10 VALAAS, Laura WHT 47:39.5 36.0 5 2 CROCKER, Alison DAR 47:54.3 35.0 6 4 PALANOVA, Lenka CU 47:55.4 34.0 7 17 ROGNMO, Marit UNM 47:59.6 33.0 8 14 CRAWFORD, Kate UVM 48:00.6 32.0 9 11 GREVSGAARD, Maria Mo CU 48:06.2 31.0 10 12 VAN ALST, Laura UNM 48:16.6 30.0 11 13 KOCHEN, Tami NMU 48:33.5 29.0 12 25 DUNKLEE, Susan DAR 48:39.5 28.0 13 19 MCQUEEN, Ashley UU 48:57.7 27.0 14 16 RICE, Kasandra D UAA 49:02.5 26.0 15 26 DEYONG, Nicole UAA 49:02.9 25.0 16 36 HOLMES, Chelsea UNR 49:20.4 24.0 17 28 OWEN, Kristina MTU 49:35.4 23.0 18 7 MAEKI, Anna�karin DU 49:50.1 22.0 19 24 EDWARDS, Cassidy MID 49:52.4 21.0 20 21 BOWDEN, Mandy MSU 49:59.5 20.0 21 32 SCHWEIGER, Sara UU 50:01.0 19.0 22 8 TRYGSTAD�SAARI, Kris DAR 50:06.2 18.0 23 22 JAQUES, Crystin UNM 50:07.2 17.0 24 18 HAVLOVA, Pavla UAF 50:12.0 16.0 25 20 JOKELA, Anja UVM 50:24.1 15.0 26 39 BOHMOVA, Eva UNR 50:36.7 14.0 27 15 HAMEL, Carina UVM 50:45.2 13.0 28 23 WINTERS, Johanna R UWGB 50:51.0 12.0 29 31 ENGESLAND, Ingvild DU 50:54.6 11.0 30 29 RENNIE, Claire MSU 51:31.7 10.0 31 38 JOHNSON, Sally UNR 52:15.7 9.0 32 37 QUIGGLE, Ashley WSC 52:31.1 8.0 33 33 DAW, Chandra GAC 52:39.7 7.0 34 35 MCELROY, Kaitlyn BAT 52:48.4 6.0 35 9 NAEF, Nicole UU 53:02.8 5.0 03/11/2006 01:13:47 COLORADO SPRINGS CO RESULTS by B.A.R.T. PAGE 1 NCAA SKIING CHAMPIONSHIPS WOMEN'S 15K FREE TECHNIQUE PL BIB NAME TEAM TIME PTS 36 27 HAMILTON, Jenny MID 53:28.7 4.0 37 34 KINSMAN, Joanna UNH 53:50.3 3.0 *** 30 NILSSON, Karin DU : 0.0 *** 3 WEIER, Lindsey NMU : 0.0 Team Standings 2006 NCAA Championships Team Scores 1. Colorado - 654 2. New Mexico - 556 3. Dartmouth - 537.5 4. Denver - 522.5 5. Vermont - 516 6. Alaska-Anchorage - 451 7. Middlebury - 412 8. Utah - 400 9. New Hampshire - 309 10. Alaska-Fairbanks - 271 11. Nevada - 259 12. Bates - 189 13. Montana State - 185 14. Northern Michigan - 154 15. Williams - 137.5 16. Colby - 130.5 17. Western State - 126.5 18. Whitman - 62.5 19. Michigan Tech - 62 20. Boise State - 50 21. St. Lawrence - 25 22. Wisconsin-Green Bay - 22 23. St. Olaf - 17 24. Gustavus Adolphus - 9