In Steamboat, a Denver Kind of Day as DU Wins NCAA Championships

BrainspiralMarch 12, 2016
The University of Denver celebrates its victory during NCAA Division I Men's and Women's Skiing Championships at Howelsen Hill in Steamboat Springs, Colo. (Photo: Jamie Schwaberow/NCAA via
The University of Denver celebrates its victory during NCAA Division I Men’s and Women’s Skiing Championships at Howelsen Hill in Steamboat Springs, Colo. (Photo: Jamie Schwaberow/NCAA via

After the University of Denver (DU) alpine team pulled the Pioneers into the lead on Friday, surpassing Montana State University (MSU) by 15.5 points with one day remaining in the NCAA Skiing Championships, the DU nordic team took that lead and ran with it on Saturday for Denver’s 23rd national skiing title.

DU won the four-day 2016 championships with 567.5 points, 76 more than the University of Colorado-Boulder in second and 82.5 ahead of University of Utah in third. Colorado (CU) hosted the championships at Howelsen Hill in Steamboat Springs, Colo., with two days of alpine racing interspersed with two days of nordic.

“Alpine set us up with a lead that we were able to build on, so this was a balanced team win with both alpine and nordic adding almost the same points to the team total,” Denver Head Nordic Coach Dave Stewart said, according to a DU press release. “Alpine has had a dominant season and it was very special to put it all together this week at NCAA’s.”

The men’s 20-kilometer and women’s 15 k classic mass starts ended the championships on Saturday, with CU sophomore Mads Strøm winning his second NCAA title in as many races at this year’s championships (and third overall in the last three years).

Denver sophomore Linn Eriksen skied away from the 39-woman pack to win in 54:37.6 minutes, 19.9 seconds ahead of Kati Roivas of the University of New Mexico (UNM). Ane Johnsen (CU) placed third (+21.2) to round out the podium, while Denver had three in the top 12 with Aja Starkey in sixth (+42.9) and Taeler McCrerey in 12th (+1:10.0).

In the men’s race, Strøm edged Denver’s Moritz Madlener by 1.7 seconds at the finish, winning the 20 k in 49:41.9 and thus becoming the third CU athlete in history (and sixth skier) to win at least three individual NCAA titles, according to a CU press release. Another 17 seconds back, Niklas Persson (Utah) placed third (+18.7). For Madlener, it was his second podium in as many races after placing third in Thursday’s 10 k freestyle.

“I really had to focus – I’m happy that I had that rest yesterday,” Strøm said of Friday’s off day for nordic. “A lot of things happen when you win a race. A lot of people want to talk to you. I just had to recover a little bit and try to find some good skis again and just have a smart tactic. I just like to stay behind people, let them do the work and finish strong.”

The 24-year-old Norwegian explained he switched up his strategy when his teammate Petter Reistad chose to double pole.

“He didn’t use any kicks, so he had to go hard from the start and just try to ski away from people,” Strøm said. “That really helped me out because other teams had to chase him and I could slip in behind and just ski with them until they eventually caught him. I could just stay in a pack and just save as much energy as possible. My skis were really good and on the last lap I saw there were pretty much only three guys left. I knew all of us were pretty good sprinters so I just tried to tire them out a bit all the way to the top.”

Mads Strøm racing to the first of his two consecutive wins at 2016 NCAA Skiing Championships: Thursday's 10 k freestyle in Steamboat Springs, Colo. Strøm won the men's 20 k classic mass start on Saturday by 1.7 seconds. (Photo:
Mads Strøm racing to the first of his two consecutive wins at 2016 NCAA Skiing Championships: Thursday’s 10 k freestyle in Steamboat Springs, Colo. Strøm won the men’s 20 k classic mass start on Saturday by 1.7 seconds. (Photo:

Coming into the final descent, Strøm told himself that second wouldn’t cut it.

“I said, ‘OK, I’m going to sacrifice everything. Either I go down or I’m just going to gap,’ and I gapped.  I looked back, and I said, ‘OK, just sprint from here. Just go for it,’ ” he said.

Reistad placed ninth (+1:35.4) as a freshman and the second CU Buff in the top 10. In the women’s race, Colorado had two skiers in the top five, with Johnsen in third and Jesse Knori in fifth (+36.2).

Contributing to the team win, Denver had three men in the top 13 with Dag Frode Trolleboe in 10th (+1:42.3) and Lars Hannah in 13th (+2:21.3).

Aside from winning the overall, Denver also had 15 All-Americans, the most of any team this year, according to an NCAA press release. On Saturday, Eriksen and Madlener were named to the women’s and men’s classical first teams, respectively, while Starkey and Trolleboe earned second-team honors.

“I am so incredibly proud of the young men and women on our team,” Stewart said. “They came into this championship knowing that it would take nothing less than their best to win a title for DU, and they did just that. The conditions were challenging today with rising temperatures through the morning, but everyone brought such composure and focus to the race that I believe the tough conditions worked in our favor.

“Moritz and Linn have led the team all year and they did it again today,” he added. “Moritz just missed his first individual national title in a close sprint finish, but his two podium performances this week were huge for the team. Linn skied a masterful race, leading from start to finish, breaking away on the last lap to ski to a solo win. Aja had the race of her life in sixth and Dag Frode had his two best races of the season when the team needed him.”

Stewart added that the championships came during exam week, requiring every member of the team to take their final exams in advance.

“These guys are truly model student-athletes and it is my pleasure to be able to coach them,” he said. “We are thrilled to be bringing our 23rd national title back to DU! To end the championship with two exceptional nordic performances, with both men and women winning the team score, was the best ending to the five championships wins I have been a part of over the last 10 years. This one tops them all!  To have all six of our nordic athletes earn All-American honors is just incredible. I’m speechless.”

Results: Men’s 20 k | Women’s 15 k

Top 10 men (20 k classic mass start)

  1. Mads Strøm (CU) 49:41.9
  2. Moritz Madlener (DU) +1.7
  3. Niklas Persson (UU) +18.7
  4. Ian Torchia (NMU) +40.2
  5. Adam Martin (NMU) +57.8
  6. Eli Hoenig (Williams) +1:01.3
  7. Kevin Bolger (UU) +1:05.5
  8. Jack Hegman (UVM) +1:07.6
  9. Petter Reistad (CU) +1:35.4
  10. Dag Frode Trolleboe (DU) +1:42.3

Top 10 women (15 k classic mass start)

  1. Linn Eriksen (DU) 54:37.6
  2. Kati Roivas (UNM) +19.9
  3. Ane Johnsen (CU) +21.2
  4. Veronika Mayerhofer (UU) +28.4
  5. Jesse Knori (CU) +36.2
  6. Aja Starkey (DU) +42.9
  7. Nichole Bathe (UAF) +44.5
  8. Emilie Cedervaern (UNM) +44.9
  9. Olivia Amber (Colby) +53.1
  10. Eva Severrus (UNM) +1:02.2

Thursday, March 10 

Men’s Freestyle First Team

1. Mads Stroem, CU

2. Ian Torchia, NMU

3. Moritz Madlener, DU

4. Adam Martin, NMU

5. Sawyer Kesselheim, MSU

Second Team

6. Petter Reistad, CU

7  Nick Hendrickson, UU

8. Lars Hannah, DU

9. Jake Brown, NMU

10. Jack Hegman, UVM

Women’s Freestyle First Team

1. Anika Miller, MSU

2. Petra Hyncicova, CU

3. Sloan Storey, UU

4. Cambria McDermott, MSU

5. Emilie Cedervaern, UNM

Second Team

6. Natalia Müller, UU

7. Taeler McCrerey, DU

8. Linn Eriksen, DU

9. Ane Johnsen, CU

10. Mary Kate Cirelli, UVM


Saturday, March 12

Men’s Classical First Team

1. Mads Strøm, CU

2. Moritz Madlener, DU

3. Niklas Persson, UU

4. Ian Torchia, NMU

5. Adam Martin, NMU

Second Team

6. Eli Hoenig, WIL

7. Kevin Bolger, UU

8. Jack Hegman, UVM

9. Petter Reistad, CU

10. Dag Frode Trolleboe, DU

Women’s Classical First Team

1. Linn Eriksen, DU

2. Kati Roivas, UNM

3. Ane Johnsen, CU

4. Veronika Mayerhofer, UU

5. Jesse Knori, CU

Second Team

6. Aja Starkey, DU

7. Nichole Bathe, UAF

8. Emilie Cedervaern, UNM

9. Olivia Amber, COL

10. Eva Severrus, UNM

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