GIRDWOOD, Alaska — The 2009 RMISA collegiate ski season opened here Monday afternoon, with a 5/10km freestyle race at the Alaska-Anchorage Invitational. The race was shortened from a 10/15km due to the cold weather. The second event of the Invitational was canceled due to the cold.
Host Alaska-Anchorage raced out to the lead with 159 points, followed by CU (131), Denver (116) and Montana State (112), with Nevada and Utah tied for fifth (105).
Monday’s freestyle races were within the U.S. National Cross Country Ski Championships, with the Rocky Mountain Intercollegiate Ski Association (RMISA) results pulled from the overall results, which included top skiers from all three NCAA ski regions. Two CU newcomers emerged as the top collegians in both the men’s and women’s competition, Vegard Kjoelhamar in the men’s 10K and Alexa Turzian in the women’s 5K.
The races were actually delayed due to cold, as the cutoff level to start a race is four degrees below zero. Two previous days of races were cancelled due to the extreme cold, but the weather relented a bit Monday afternoon and the races proceeded.
Kjoelhamar, a sophomore from Jar, Norway, was fourth overall but claimed the college win in 25:41.9, as the next best finisher was some 32 seconds behind him. He paced four Buffaloes in the top 10, as fellow sophomore Jesper Ostensen claimed third in 26:20.8, with junior Matt Gelso seventh (26:55.3) and sophomore transfer Patrick Neel ninth (27:06.8). Neel transferred to CU from Western State last year and had to redshirt; WSC wound up eliminating skiing as a sport last summer.
Host UAA swept places 4-6 with Max Treinen, Raphael Wunderle and Lex Treinen respectively. Max Treinen was 6 seconds out of third place.
Turzian, a transfer from Middlebury, made her western debut in style as she finished seventh overall but as the top collegian, with three of the six skiers ahead of her members of the U.S. National Team. She completed the 5k loop in 15:29.3, some 31 seconds faster than the next collegian, Denver’s Antje Maempel. Senior Maria Grevsgaard (CU) decided to race while ill, and despite stomach-flu like conditions skied to a 12th place finish in 16:36.7. Grevsgaard has 19 career victories and dominated the RMISA circuit last season, winning all but one start.
The UAA Women bettered their male counterparts by a place each, sweeping 3-5 with Sadie Bjornsen, Jamie Bronga, and local junior standout Amy Glen.
“Vegard had a fantastic race, and he even had some problems with his hands and the cold, but we were thrilled with him being the top collegian and fourth overall,” CU Nordic coach Bruce Cranmer said. “He, Jesper and Matt had solid races, not where they wanted to be among the entire field, but these kinds of temperatures really affect everyone and their ability to race differently. But most everyone here struggled in some manner. But 1-3-7 and five in the top 14 among western colleges was a solid performance.”
“Alexa also had a good, solid performance,” Cranmer added. “Maria was sick, with something similar to stomach flu, and she’s been weak. But even if she was super healthy, it would have been hard because of the temperatures here. She originally wasn’t going to race but decided to anyway and almost had a top 10 finish.”
In addition to RMISA competition, UAA leads the College Cup, which includes all college teams racing at US Nationals, with 307 points. Dartmouth is second with 257 and CU third with 256. Dartmouth was led by Sophie Caldwell in second and Rosie Brennan in third.
RMISA racing continues with the Seawolf Invitational this weekend. Alpine events are on Thursday and Saturday and Nordic races on Saturday and Sunday; the Seawolf meet replaces the Western State Invitational, which was cancelled from the schedule when the school dropped skiing last summer.