Rocky Mountain Intercollegiate Ski Association racing continued last weekend with the Utah Invitational at Soldier Hollow. The UNiversity of Colorado narrowly edged host UNiversity of Utah in the team competition.
Day one: 5/10k freestyle
After the first batch of races, the hosting school University of Utah (UU) finished one point behind the University of Colorado Buffaloes (CU). The battle between the two schools continued as it has all season: On the ladies’ side, the Utes edged the Buffaloes with a score 129-111, while the CU won the men’s race ahead of UU 125-106.
Utah brought home both individual victories as Miles Havlick and Maria Grafnings both won their respective gender’s race. Havlick won in a time of 26:21.0, by 5.6 seconds over Colorado’s Vegard Kjoelhamar (26:26.6); so far, those two skiers have gone one-two on the podium in all three races this season. Montana State’s Michael Schallinger took third in a time of 26:31.0.
It was similar on the women’s side, as Grafnings won in a time of 14:10.4, 11 seconds ahead of second place Eliska Hajkova from CU (14:21.4). Grafnings and Hajkova have been neck and neck this season, finishing one right after another in three season races so far. Utah’s Zoe Roy rounded out the podium in a time of 14:31.7.
Day two: 15/20 k classic
While CU was narrowly close in winning both the men and women’s team scores for the second day of Nordic competition, putting four men and two women in the top ten was enough to secure the overall win for the weekend. The Buffaloes finished with 923 points, 25 ahead of host Utah (898) and nearly 100 ahead of third place New Mexico University (NMU), who finished with 824.5. This makes the fourth western meet that CU has won in a row- two from last year and two this year.
“All in all, it was a great day,” said CU’s Nordic coach Bruce Cranmer.
It was NMU men’s team that earned the most points in the second day of racing, placing skiers Tor-Hakon Hellebostad and Martin Kaaswith on the podium and Christian Otto in sixth to earn 128 points as to CU’s 126. CU however had Vegard Kjoelhamar on top, with a time of 1:03:11.5.
“He had a big day,” Cranmer said. “He just he got the lead at the beginning and skied away from everybody. He didn’t have a big plan, he got a little bit of a gap on the first lap into the stadium, and kept skiing like he wanted to with a smooth rhythm and skied away from everybody. He kept building his lead throughout the race, each lap he improved.”
Kjoelhamar’s teammates Jesper Ostensen took fourth place in a time of 1:05:50.0 and Reid Pletcher placed seventh in a time of 1:05:44.3.
UU’s Grafnings was the first skier across the finish line in a time of 54:38.0, continuing her streak of wins for the 2011 season and leading the Ute women’s team to victory with 128 points. Her teammates Marta Larsen (5th) and Roy (7th) followed her with times of 57:20.5 and 57:38.4 respectively. Grafnings was followed by Elise Hajkova of CU, who has finished all four races in second place, 59 seconds behind Grafnings. Hajkova was followed by her teammate Alexa Turzian in third with a time of 56:59.2.
The Buffs hope to duplicate this effort in just about a month as Utah will serve host to the 2011 RMISA Championships on these same courses.
“It’s a really good course,” Cranmer said. “It’s an Olympic-quality course. There are good up and downs, it skies well and is super challenging. I’m happy to come back to it later this season; it’s one of the best around. I also like it because from the stadium, you can see the race unfold. You can see most of the race just the way it’s all laid out.”
Racing continues at Red River in New Mexico as NMU hosts it’s invitational meet on February 4th and 5th.
Information from RMISA and UU were used for this article.
Ben Theyerl was born into a family now three-generations into nordic ski racing in the US. He grew up skiing for Chippewa Valley Nordic in his native Eau Claire, Wisconsin, before spending four years racing for Colby College in Maine. He currently mixes writing and skiing while based out of Crested Butte, CO, where he coaches the best group of high schoolers one could hope to find.