CollegiateRacing2014 NCAA Preview: Colorado, Utah, Vermont, and Others Hungry for Title

Avatar Lander KarathMarch 4, 2014
Photo: Flyingpointroad.com (All proceeds benefit NNF)
An NCAA banner hangs at the 2013 NCAA Skiing Championships in Vermont. The 2014 Championships are set to begin Wednesday in Park City Utah. Photo: Flyingpointroad.com (All proceeds benefit NNF)

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One-hundred and forty-eight. That’s the number of skiers who have descended upon the ski town of Park City, Utah, to participate in the 2014 NCAA Skiing Championships. The championships will be hosted by the University of Utah, who last had the honor in 2000. The four day event, which consists of two alpine and two nordic races, begins Wednesday and continues through Saturday.

The cross country portion of the event will take place at Soldier Hollow in Midway, Utah, the site of the 2002 Olympic Games and many national events, including the 2014 U.S. Cross Country Championships.

The weather in Utah looks to be warm and wet with highs in the mid 40s to lower 50s and precipitation expected on Thursday and Friday, making for tricky waxing and racing conditions. 

Given the nature of course, sloppy conditions, the field, and the stakes, the competition is set to be fierce. Several schools will be in the hunt for the title of america’s fastest skiing school, but only one will walk away with the championship title.

Last year at the 2013 NCAA Championships in Ripton, Vt., it was the University of Colorado that came out on top followed by the University of Utah and the University of Vermont. Colorado’s chances in Utah seem a more slim in 2014, as they were unable to win a collegiate weekend all season. However, with a strong showing for men’s nordic, the Buffs may be able to make up for their other weaknesses.

The University of Utah is hungry to break a three-year-streak of finishing second at NCAAs. After winning last weeks Rocky Mountain Intercollegiate Ski Association (RMISA) Championships, Utah goes into this week’s races with confidence and energy. Having the home advantage should certainly help Utah as well. However, if they want the title that’s slipped out of their hands the past three years, they’ll have to rely less on their alpine team and see better results from their nordic squad.

It would be asinine to discount the University of Vermont, whose skiers have been looking especially strong this year. In the 2012 Championships they demonstrated that they could tackle western altitudes with ease in Bozeman, Mont. And with Soldier Hollow looking to be warm and wet this week, the conditions may favor eastern skiers who are used to rough easter weather.

The East

The eastern skiers are as strong as ever this year with the undefeated University of Vermont setting its sites on another NCAA victory. The 2012 champions have a strong team in both alpine and nordic which has contributed to their uncontested dominance this season.

Anja Gruber (University of Vermont) racing to fourth in Saturday's 10 k classic mass start at Soldier Hollow for her best U.S. nationals result by more than 20 places. (Photo: Bert Boyer/http://bertboyer.zenfolio.com/) All proceeds from photo sales will be directly donated to NNF.
Anja Gruber (University of Vermont) racing to fourth in the 10 k classic mass start at Soldier Hollow for her best U.S. nationals result by more than 20 places. (Photo: Bert Boyer/http://bertboyer.zenfolio.com/) All proceeds from photo sales will be directly donated to NNF.

The east finds its greatest strength in its women. Anja Gruber, a native of Germany, has been UVM’s shining star this year, and finishes the regular season as the top-ranked skier in the Eastern Intercollegiate Ski Association (EISA). Last year’s NCAA 5 k classic champion, she placed fourth at the 2014 U.S. nationals at Soldier Hollow on the same course where the NCAAs are being held. Throughout the season the senior has been a top contender in the EISA circuit, consistently winning all but one classic race and finishing in the top three in every freestyle race.

UVM’s talent doesn’t stop there, with sophomores Linda Danvid-Malm of Umea, Sweden and Stephanie Kirk of Anchorage, Alaska, showing that Gruber isn’t the only catamount with claws. Danvid-Malm has been dominant in freestyle, winning three out of six EISA races this season. Kirk, who competed in Italy as part of the U23 World Championships, has been a consistent performer as well highlighted by a spectacular win in the 15 k skate mass start at the EISA Championships at Middlebury College last weekend.

Annie Hart of Dartmouth College has been the only real threat to Vermont’s dominance all season, having been the only non-UVM woman in the east to win a scored collegiate race this season. Consistently on the podium in classic races, Hart finally saw her hard work pay off at the EISA championships when she won the 5 k classic. With the same event being held on Thursday, Hart is hungry for a national championship title. Corey Stock, also of Dartmouth, has had a decent season as well, ranking fifth in the eastern points standings.  

While not as dominant as their women, the UVM men shouldn’t be taken lightly. Their lead skier, Scott Patterson of Fairbanks, Alaska, has won three of the six collegiate races he’s participated in this season. Patterson made the headlines earlier this year when he riskily tried to break away from the men’s field in the 30 k mass start. Unsurprisingly, the move failed on the national level, but a similar move with in a collegiate field may be what Patterson needs to secure a title..

Sophomore Jorgen Grav is another UVM skier to watch in Soldier Hollow. The Oslo, Norway native finished fifth in the EISA rankings, followed by teammate Rogan Brown of Durango, Colo., in sixth.

Silas Talbot (DAR)
Silas Talbot of Dartmouth racing in the 2013 NCAA Championships at Middlebury, Vermont.

Two Dartmouth College skiers have the chance to dethrone the dominant catamounts. Paddy Caldwell and Silas Talbot have both been atop the results this year both winning multiple carnival races. Caldwell skied to a convincing win in the men’s 20 k freestyle at the ESIA Championship and was named 2014 rookie skier of the year for the region.

A notable emission from this year’s NCAA Championships will be Ben Lustgarten of Middlebury College. Lustgarten had a spectacular year which started with strong skiing at the 2014 U.S. National Championships, continued with racing at the U23 World Championships, and finished with a win in the 10 k classic (by 50 seconds!) at the EISA Championships. Lustgarten would have been a top contender in Soldier Hollow this year but due to an knee injury he sustained in the 20 k mass start at the EISA Championships the senior will be on the sidelines.

The West

Unlike the east, there has been no clear contender for the top spot in the west. At the beginning of the season it looked as if the University of Denver might be ready for another NCAA Championship, but by the time the RMISA Championships was over last week, Denver had finished fourth, roughly 60 points behind the winner, the University of Utah. Despite the end-of-season falter, Denver still held the top spot in the regular season standings demonstrating their potential.

Sylvia Nordskar (University of Denver), fourth
Sylvia Nordskar of the University of Denver racing in West Yellowstone, Montana earlier in the 2013/2014 season.

Sylvia Nordskar of Bærum, Norway, is the most-likely woman from the West to capture an NCAA title. The University of Denver freshman has either won or placed second in every collegiate race that she has competed in this season and has no signs of stopping.

Senior Makayla Cappel, a Sun Valley native skiing for Denver, became a late-season standout after winning the 5 k classic and taking third in the 15 k freestyle mass start at the RMISA Championship in Minturn, Colo. After dealing with illness upon her return from the World University Games in Italy, Cappel recovered from a slow start to her season to rocket herself onto the first team All-RMISA. Rounding out the Denver women is Silje Benum, who has also had many top finishes this season.

Only two non-Denver skiers have been able to top Nordskar this season. The first is Marine Dusser of the University of Alaska Anchorage, who was third in the women’s 15 k in 2013 and has had several wins in the RIMSA circuit this year. The second is Slovenian Eva Severrus of the University of New Mexico, a freshman who has helped New Mexico improve its standings in the west.

Sloan Storey of the University of Utah is another western woman to watch. Storey joined the U.S. contingent at the Junior World Championships in Italy earlier this year and made first team All-RMISA after and exemplary collegiate season.

Rune Oedegaard (CU) 8th place classic
Rune Ødegaard racing in the West Yellowstone Super Tour.

Like its women’s team, the Denver men were the top team in the west during the regular season. The trio of Moritz MadlenerPierre Guedon and Trygve Markset made the Pioneers proud in 2014 and hope to continue the trend into the NCAA Championships. However, they’ll need to have a better performance than they did at the RMISA Championships, where they garnered only 46 points compared to the University of Colorado’s 93.

Norwegians Rune Ødegård and Mads Strøm, a junior and freshman, have been the top skiers from Colorado throughout the latter half of the 2014 collegiate season. After sitting out the first two weekends of collegiate racing the duo has consistently been in the top five. Ødegård won last year’s 10 k classic at the 2013 NCAA Championships and looks to continue that success into 2014.

The University of Utah men have shown that the best skiers in the west aren’t just based in Colorado. Niklas PerssonOscar Ivars, and Noe Bellet have all performed well this season, garnering spots on the second team All-RMISA. However, all three will need to up their game if they want to outpace the Catamounts and the Buffs.

Colorado, Denver, and Utah have had steady competition from the 2013 RMISA skier of the year, Lukas Ebner of the University of Alaska Anchorage. The senior, who hales from Germany, hopes to build on a season that has included multiple podiums.

Central

The Central Collegiate Ski Association (CCSA) has traditionally trailed the east and west in terms of results at past NCAA Championships, which is reflected in the small numbers of qualifiers from the region. Despite that fact, there are several top performers who have a chance at an NCAA podium in Utah. 

Rosie Frankowski of Northern Michigan University in the 20 k freestyle mass start at U.S. Nationals at Soldier Hollow.
Rosie Frankowski of Northern Michigan University in the 20 k freestyle mass start at U.S. Nationals at Soldier Hollow.

Rosie Frankowski, a senior of Northern Michigan University, has had an excellent season and looks to continue her speed into her time in Utah. Frankowski finishes her regular season as the top skier in the CCSA.

Freshman Nicole Bathe of University of Alaska Fairbanks has turned out to be quite the powerhouse in classic races. Bathe has had excellent start to the season after finishing third in the classic sprint at the 2014 U.S. Cross Country Championships.

Fellow Fairbanks  teammate Logan Hanneman looks to be the top male competitor for the CCSA in Utah. The junior finished fifth in the freestyle sprint at U.S. Nationals earlier this season.

Whether Colorado can reclaim its title, Utah can snap its second place curse, or Vermont use the sloppy conditions to their advantage, the NCAA Championships will be an exciting display of talent from the fastest skiers in the country.

The 5 k and 10 k classic will take place this Thursday at 10 a.m. and 12 p.m. MST. The Championships will conclude with the 15 k and 20 k freestyle mass starts on Saturday, also at 10 a.m. and 12 p.m, MST. Watch the action unfold live on the NCAA site and check FasterSkier for reports.

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Lander Karath

Lander Karath is FasterSkier's Associate Editor from Bozeman, Montana and a Bridger Ski Foundation alumnus. Between his studies at Middlebury College in Vermont, he is an outdoor enthusiast and a political junkie.

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