NCAA Power Rankings, Week 1: Vermont New #1
By Bryce Hubner
Look out world, the Catamounts are coming.
The University of Vermont kicked off the 2011 season at the St. Lawrence Carnival (Jan. 15-16) by ending Dartmouth’s almost 3-year run of consecutive EISA regular-season victories.
And they did it in emphatic style -- as UVM individuals claimed 7 of 8 races en route to winning 6 of 8 events as a team.
Big Green had won 15-straight meets coming into the weekend, and 17 of 18 since claiming the national title in 2007. One has to trace the record books all the way back to Feb. 1, 2008 to find the last team to unseat Dartmouth, when Middlebury College took top honors at the UVM Winter Carnival.
Congratulations to all the skiers, coaches and friends of Dartmouth skiing for a run that was nothing short of remarkable.
That Vermont was primed to improve this season was plain for even the most casual observers at races leading into NCAA action, but could anyone have guessed they’d win the St. Lawrence Carnival with the highest point total -- 1,050 -- in EISA history? Dartmouth was a distant second place with 820 points, and New Hampshire finished third with 722.
Fans shouldn’t expect a similar margin of victory every week, but it’s clear that UVM is the team to beat in the east -- and may be the team to beat come March, when it hosts NCAA Champs at Stowe and Trapp Family Lodge.
With all of this in mind, Vermont has deservedly leapt to the top of the Power Rankings.
Things are a little tighter out West, and it seems that RMISA continues -- on the whole -- to boast more depth than EISA. Colorado nipped Utah by a mere nine points to win the Montana State Invitational last weekend -- and is, coincidentally, currently leading the Utah Invite over Utah by nine points.
The nordic half of the Utah Invite concludes this coming weekend at Soldier Hollow (Jan. 21-22). EISA heads to Maine for the Colby Carnival on the same dates.
Send us your thoughts about the Power Rankings and college skiing in general by emailing NCAARankings@skiracing.com. Or, if you’re on Twitter, use the hashtag #NCAAskiing or tweet thoughts directly to @Bryce_Hubner.
In the meantime, the Power Rankings:
Vermont (1) (Last week: 3) Our preseason rankings proved wrong on a bunch of counts, but we’re feeling okay about having said, “This is the team that ends Dartmouth’s long run atop the EISA ranks.” Not necessarily surprising news from the opening carnival: Caitlin Patterson won both of the ladies’ cross country races; former Canadian team sisters Meg and Kate Ryley look the alpine skiers to beat -- along with teammate Lyndee Janowiak, of course; two different Kelleys podium in slalom and GS; Norwegian alpine recruit Jonathan Nordbotten scores a win and a second-place finish to launch his college career. Perhaps a little surprising: UVM’s massive margin of victory; young Scott Patterson was surely expected to be good, but a win in his very first college race?; Alex Howe, in his third year at UVM, CRUSHing the 15K free for his first-ever college victory.
Colorado (2) (Last week: 4) CU nordics are picking up right where they left off last year. At Montana State, Vegard Kjoelhamar led the Buffs with a second-place effort in the men’s 20K classical and won the 10K free, and teammate Eliska Hajkova garnered a pair of seconds in the ladies’ races. The best news for this team, though, is that the alpiners are skiing faster than in recent seasons. Gab Rivas has already been on the podium three times in five races; Sara Hjertman has done the same, and Erika Ghent won the RMISA Qualifier at Big Sky on Jan. 14.
Utah (3) (Last week: not ranked) Utah is in fine form. Sophomore Ryan Wilson, injured most of last season, has won two of three GSs. 2010 NCAA GS Champ Eva Huckova has a win and a second-place finish, while former World Cupper Tii-Maria Romar won the GS at Montana State. More bright performances have come from nordics Maria Graefnings, who won both events at Montana State, and Miles Havlick, who exchanged first and second-place results at MSU with CU’s Kjoelhamar.
New Mexico (4) (Last week: 3) With a pair of second-place results at Utah and a win at Montana State, alpine skier Petter Brenna is proving every bit the threat he was last season. Ditto Anne Cecilie Brusletto, who’s nosing around top speed with a few top-five finishes. The rest of the team has not looked as strong -- yet. Big emphasis on yet.
Denver (5) (Last week: 1) So how did the Pioneers fall from the top spot to number five already? Well, they finished fourth at the Montana State Invite -- 157 points behind Colorado. To be fair, they haven’t yet gotten any help from Leif Haugen, who’s been otherwise engaged on the World and Europa Cup circuits. (Haugen was third at the Europa Cup slalom in Kirchberg, Austria, this past weekend.) U.S. Ski Team alum Sterling Grant has been the Pioneers’ star to date, winning two slaloms in two tries. Seppi Stiegler, Jennie Vanwagner and Adreas Kilde are also finding the podium. Most missed? Antje Maempel’s nordic powers. Big time.
Photo: UVM's Caitlin Patterson racing in 2010. Credit: EISA / Lincoln Benedict