BOZEMAN, Mont. â€” The University of Colorado ski team, behind three individual victories here Saturday and five overall this weekend, cruised to the 2008 Rocky Mountain Intercollegiate Ski Association Championships.
This meet also doubled as the NCAA West Regional/Montana State Invitational, and was held on the same exact courses that will host this year’s NCAA Championships in less than two weeks.
Colorado won the 9-team meet with 555 points, pulling away from Utah in winning by 28 as the Utes had 527; Denver snared third with 497, with Alaska-Anchorage (458) and New Mexico (445) rounding out the top five. The Buffs held a 17-point edge over DU at the midway point Friday, with Utah 21 back.
It was the Buffaloes ninth regional title under head coach Richard Rokos, their first since 2006 on their way to the national title. Colorado now has 22 RMISA titles, 11 men’s, one women’s and 10 coed.
On the down side, Colorado did not qualify a full team for the NCAA’s. The maximum is 12 per team, three in each discipline (men’s and women’s alpine, men’s and women’s Nordic); CU came up one short on the men’s alpine side. Only Utah from the west qualified a full team, and usually only a couple from the east do so as well; CU won the 2006 NCAA title with 11 skiers, the first and only occasion the national champion did not have a full 12-skier squad. CU and DU qualified 11 this time around.
â€œIt’s not that threatening not to have a full team, even though they have changed the scoring rules,â€ Rokos said. â€œSlalom is always the great equalizer, so those of us who are short on the alpine side can overcome it with some strategy if the usual number of falls occurs.â€ The NCAA used to count a maximum 21 scorers at nationals to equal things out for schools that did not qualify full teams, but the coaches voted during the off season for all scores to count. So those schools with 12-skier squads can count 24, with 11-skier teams counting 22.
â€œFor the rest of the team, we qualified four women in alpine and five in both Nordics, sneaking Josh (Smith) in there after he had a fantastic last two meets,â€ he continued. â€œAnd we were two spots shy of a sixth girl qualifying in cross. So we’ll have some decisions to make between now and Monday as to who we bring back here, but it’s really good to have such depth and to have these kinds of tough choices to make.â€
Coaches have until late Monday afternoon to identify which skiers they will bring; if a team qualifies more than the maximum three, they have their choice among that pool of athletes.
CU, senior Maria Grevsgaard banked another victory, claiming the women’s 15-kilometer classical race, her ninth win this season and 17th overall in her career, as she continues to add to her all-time CU record. She basically led from wire-to-wire in winning in a 53:42.61 time, as she got the jump on the field on the first lap of the course, Her initial split was 46 seconds faster than New Mexico’s Ermoshina Polina, who was the eventual runner-up in 54:31.69.
CU junior Lenka Palanova joined teammate Grevsgaard on the podium, finishing third for a second straight day, completing the course in 56:27.70.
In the men’s 20K classical, Buff senior Kit Richmond continued on his recent roll, winning for the third consecutive race in covering the four legs of the course in one hour, three minutes and 24.69 seconds. In edging Utah’s Snorri Einarsson by 1.8 seconds, Richmond posted his sixth straight top five finish since illness forced him to miss the classic race in CU’s own invitational. It was also his sixth career win, but just his second triumph in the classic discipline; his other came in the 2006 Western State meet, which was the first career collegiate victory.
Jesper Ostensen (CU) was third in in 1:04:10.72.
â€œIt was a good two days and we’re happy with it,â€ CU Nordic coordinator Bruce Cranmer said. â€œI think we skied well, we’re pretty strong, and I’m optimistic, though am cautious about it. But we accomplished what we wanted to do here, we’re familiar with the courses and overall we all feel real good about how the weekend went.â€
Individually, Colorado claimed the most individual race titles in the west for the third straight winter, with Buffalo skiers winning 17 of the 42 events. Denver had the next most wins with 11, followed by Utah (8), Nevada (4) and New Mexico (2).
The western skiers will return to Bozeman in less than two weeks and will be joined by their eastern and central region counterparts as the 55th NCAA Championships, which will run from March 5-8.
RMISA Championship/NCAA West Regional Team Scoresâ€”1. Colorado 555; 2. Utah 527; 3. Denver 497; 4. Alaska-Anchorage 458; 5. New Mexico 445; 6. Nevada 422; 7. Montana State 368; 8. Western State 199; 9. Whitman 185.