University of New Mexico Hosts Red River Invitational

Ben TheyerlFebruary 9, 2011

Rocky Mountain Intercollegiate Ski Association racing resumed after a week break at Red River, New Mexico. The University of New Mexico hosted the weekend event.

Day 1: 5/10 k Classic

Racing at the season’s toughest venue- 10,000 feet in elevation at Red River, NM-  it was the University of New Mexico (UNM) taking both nordic men’s and women’s top scores for the first day of racing, 225 points over University of Utah’s (UU) 214 points. The charge was led by Martin Kass, who won the men’s 10 k classic race for the Lobos in a time of 28:41.4. Kaas was followed by teammates Tor-Hakon Hellebostad in eighth place and Pierre Niess in 10th.  Together they scored 113 points, beating runner up Denver University (DU) with 105 points.

“A few of us had a good day, but that was about it,” Said University of Colorado (CU)  nordic coach Bruce Cranmer about the race venue. “We know this is a little different beast here.  This is the only course we race on where the elevation is near 10,000 feet.  We won’t dwell on the results on either side, alpine or nordic, it’s just a dip in the season after a strong start.”

As it is, the Buffaloes are short handed, with alpine coach Richard Rokos and seven alpine skiers currently participating in the 25th World University Games in Turkey and with members like Vegard Kjoelhamar sick and Reid Pletcher sitting out. That left Jesper Ostensen to lead CU with his second place finish, 16.8 seconds back from Kaas. Kristian Soerlund of Denver University (DU) took the last spot on the podium.

Maria Graefnings’ word for this season is probably “dominating”, as the University of Utah (UU)  skier took the women’s 5k classic win and fifth consecutive this season with a time of 16:51.7. Graefnings was followed by teammates Sarah MacCarthy and Rose Kemp to lead the lady Utes with 113 points, edging the Lobos by one point.

Martine Weng  was second overall to lead the Lobos, followed by teammates Sofie Jonsson (7th)  and Terese Andersson (10th). Rounding out the podium was junior Kate Dolan for Denver. DU Coach Dave Stewart was quite pleased with his team’s results at Red River, in contrast to Cranmer’s mood on high altitude racing.

“Six members of the team recorded their career-best results today, led by team captains Kate Dolan and Kristian Soerlund both reaching the podium with 3rd-place finishes,” He said. “[Freshmen] Markus Moe cracked the top-10 for the first time this season in sixth, which was very impressive given that this was one of his first races at high-altitude. [Sophomore] Makayla Cappel, who missed last season with a back injury, also had a breakthrough result today in eighth.”

Day 2: 10 k Team Time Trial Freestyle

Heading into the second day of racing, the University of Colorado was in fourth place behind New Mexico, Utah and Denver. When the dust settled however, Colorado had rallied enough with impressive performances to get third with 411 points- only three points behind Denver and 22 behind Utah.

The team time trial format is relatively recent addition to the RMISA and is not exactly true to the cycling version. In cycling races the time of the slowest rider on the team is the final result – teams start together in a group.

The RMISA version uses a similar start format, but skiers’ times are all recorded individually.

Graefnings continued her sweep of wins as she crossed the tape fastest with a time of 29:27.7.

50 seconds behind her however CU came storming in with three skiers within three seconds to take the next three spots with skiers Alexa Turizan, Eliska Hajkova and Joanne Reid earning 132 points for Colorado.

Didrik Smith (UU) matched Graefnings’ performance and won the men’s race with a time of 25:59.5. His teammates Tom Smith and Ian Havlick wrapped up the men Utes’ performance with places of fifth and 10th respectively. The men’s podium was rounded up by Ryan Scott of Montana State University and Kass for New Mexico.

Results for the weekend can be found here. With two weekends of racing left before the NCAA Championships at Stowe, VT, the University of Utah has the highest combined team score of 1387 points after four weekends of racing. Colorado is in second with 1227 and New Mexico with 1167 points. Racing continues next weekend at the Denver Invitational at Aspen, CO.

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Ben Theyerl

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.

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