The NCAA National Championships got under way with the women's 5km freestyle race yesterday morning in Bozeman, Montana. The University of Colorado's Maria Grevsgaard won the event by 24 seconds over teammate Lenka Palanova.
â€œGetting my first NCAA win feels really good, I’m really excited,â€ Grevsgaard said. â€œIt’s amazing that Lenka and I were able to finish one-two. It’s the first race of NCAA’s and we made up a lot of points, so it’s just a good start.”
This was Grevsgaard 10th win in 11 eleven starts this season. Her win, combined with Palanova's career-best second place led the CU team to the top of the team standings after the first day of competition.
â€œEverywhere on the course all of the Alpiners and the other Nordic skiers were out there cheering and pushing you and you just don’t want to slow down,â€ Palanova said. â€œSo you push and hammer. Someone called out and told me that I was in fourth and I thought that was pretty good, and then another person later told me I was in second and I knew I had to go faster and push. I was tired but I kept going. I finished sixth at NCAA’s two years ago in Steamboat so this feels awesome.â€ She was 30th in both disciplines last year in New Hampshire, the result of what coaches determined to be overtraining.
Denver University's Annelise Bailly, the one skier to defeat Grevsgaard this year, finished third 2.9 seconds behind Palanova.
CU leads the overall competition with 186 points. Northern Michigan University (NMU) is second with 153 points. Middlebury, Dartmouth and DU are tied for third with 141 points, and University of Utah and the University of Alaska Fairbanks are right behind with 140 and 135 points respectively.
â€œWe have a solid cushion right now, but there is nothing solid in concrete,â€ CU head coach Richard Rokos said. â€œIt definitely helps that we’ve overcome that handicap (being down one skier) for one day, and it’s all because of how great a job Bruce (Cranmer, CU Nordic coordinator) does coaching those teams and how they performed. The girls really killed it today, and taking the top two spots in the women’s race collected a lot of points of us. But everyone performed well and it’s both excited and challenged the alpine kids.â€
NMU was led by Morgan Smyth in 5th place and Laura DeWitt in 7th.
Rossie Brennan led defending champion Dartmouth with a 6th place finish. Susan Dunklee was 12th and Elsa Sargent 19th as the Big Green began their quest to repeat.
Middlebury College, one of only three teams (along with Utah and Dartmouth) to field a full squad of 12 skiers, had a strong day in the women's race. Alexa Turzian finished 4th and Cassidy Edwards 11th.
Points are awarded in single increments with the winner receiving 39 and last place in the 39 skier field receiving one.
The NCAA Championships continue tomorrow with the Giant Slalom