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College: Colorado Buffs end drought, win Flood Memorial Invitational

College: Colorado Buffs end drought, win Flood Memorial Invitational{mosimage}The University of Colorado ski team finally had reason to celebrate after a long drought as the Buffaloes won its own CU/Laura Sharpe Flood Memorial Ski Invitational in convincing fashion Saturday in Steamboat Springs.

The No. 2-ranked Buffaloes led from wire-to-wire over the four days of the meet, which was spread over two weekends. The nordic teams built a 56-point lead after their four events, with the alpine team maintaining the advantage thanks to six top-10 finishes from the women and a pair from the men’s squads.

Colorado amassed 592 points to outdistance New Mexico (544) and top-ranked and defending NCAA champion Denver (531½). The Lobos pulled to within 34 points after the men’s giant slalom Saturday morning, but CU pulled away in the women’s slalom to seal the win. Alaska-Anchorage (458½) and Utah (452½) rounded out the top five in the 11-team meet.

It was Colorado’s first victory since the middle of the 2003 season, when the Buffs won their own invitational. That covered a span of 17 meets over 36 months, the longest stretch without a victory in the 16 seasons Richard Rokos has been head coach of the program. It was CU’s 37th win in 94 competitions under Rokos’ direction, and the school’s 41st since the sport went coed in 1983, trailing only Utah.

‘This was very critical victory for us in many ways’ Rokos said. ‘It’s the NCAA championship site, where we will compete in five weeks for the highest trophy in the sport. And after 36 months we broke the (losing) streak. Winning our own meet has always been a priority to honor Laura Sharpe Flood’s name, and we can keep her trophy at home. So we can celebrate this for many reasons, and it’s a confidence builder.’

‘All athletes put forth a genuine effort and thanks to the cushion our nordic team built a week ago here, we were able to maintain the lead and come close to a record-breaking win for us’ Rokos continued.

The Buffs flirted with their record for margin of victory in a meet, but settled for the second most decisive win in school history with the 48-point win. The record under the current scoring format is 53 points, which came in its last win at the 2003 CU Invitational at Eldora. The record margin of the annual five Western meets is a 76-point win posted by Denver (over CU) in the 2004 Nevada Invitational; this was the fourth-largest winning margin overall.

The Buffaloes had 21 top-10 finishes in the eight races (Denver and New Mexico were next with 15 each, with Alaska and Utah netting 11 apiece.

CU needed a solid performance in the women’s slalom in the evening to secure the victory. And the Buffaloes got just that. Freshman Lisa Perricone, a Steamboat Springs native, won her first collegiate race after three previous top-five finishes this winter in claiming the women’s slalom in a 1:29.20 time. She posted the fastest times for both runs, 43.91 the first time down the course, which featured more than a 420-foot descent, and a 45.29 in her second trip.

As with the men on Friday, it was the first time the Western women skied at night in a collegiate competition in preparation for night slaloms in next month’s NCAA championships.

‘It just so much more exciting being at home, I felt a little bit of extra energy in me’ Perricone said of winning her first collegiate race on her home mountain. ‘I love racing at night, it’s nice to have a change. Everything is usually so routine, I felt it raised the intensity a little bit. I was definitely in the zone, I had some extra confidence and went with it and it all worked out. I thought I was slow yesterday, so I wanted to redeem myself. I’d rather be in the top three than 11th (her finish in Friday’s giant slalom).

Colorado sophomore Lucie Zikova finished second in 1:30.60, where she stood after the first run; her 44.51 effort was the only other clocking under 45 seconds in the field. Junior Kristin Taylor supported the pair with a ninth-place time of 1:32.95, with her 45.55 time for her second run the second fastest, giving the Buffs the top four run times for the race. Sophomore Rachel Roosevelt skied off the course and had to hike early in her first run, eventually finishing 35th in 2:00.82.

‘Lisa put a flawless first run together’ Rokos said. ‘And she maintained her composure for the second run without displaying any signs of pressure. That’s a quality of a good racer, and there aren’t too many who exhibit that. Lucie put together a solid race, and she’s very consistent in the top two (six times in six races, with three wins), so it’s the perfect scenario for us. She’s having runs without mistakes.

Denver’s Todd Ligare won the men’s giant slalom in a two-run time of 2:07.56, edging Utah’s Scott Veenis by .16 of a second. The Pioneers won the event as a team with 76 points, edging Utah (72½) and New Mexico (71). Colorado struggled in the GS, finishing fifth in the team standings, as the Buffaloes failed to have a finisher in the top 10 for the first time in any discipline this winter, or 23 total races.

The schools will turn around and congregate quickly for the Western State Invitational, which is set in Crested Butte this weekend, Feb. 10-11. The NCAA West Regional follows in two weeks, with the NCAA Championships set for Steamboat March 8-11.

– University of Colorado

Colorado Invitational team scores
1. Colorado 592; 2. New Mexico 544; 3. Denver 531½; 4. Alaska-Anchorage 458½; 5. Utah 452½; 6. Montana State 341½; 7. Nevada 301; 8. Western State 222; 9. Whitman 135; 10. Wyoming 58; 11. Boise State 37.

Men’s giant slalom
1. Todd Ligare, DU, 2:07.56; 2. Scott Veenis, UU, 2:07.73; 3. Francesco Ghedina, DU, 2:08.22; 4. Lars Sunde Loeseth, UNM, 2:08.62; 5. Cory Harris, MSU, 2:08.93; 6. Timothee Theaux, UAA, 2:09.22; 7. Tor Fodnesbergene, UNM, 2:09.23; 8 (tie). Gaspar Perricone, UU, and Max Meier-Meitinger, UAA, 2:09.89; 10. Will McDonald, UU, 2:09.95.

Women’s slalom
1. Lisa Perricone, CU, 1:29.20; 2. Lucie Zikova, CU, 1:30.60; 3. Karin Ohlin, UNM, 1:30.99; 4. Stefanie Klocker, UAA, 1:31.10; 5. Karine Falck Pedersen, DU, 1:31.45; 6. Claire Abbe, DU, 1:32.50; 7. Chelsea Laswell, UU, 1:32.68; 8. Erika Hogan, UU, 1:32.90; 9. Kristin Taylor, CU, 1:32.95; 10. Kathrin Spendier, UNM, 1:33.20.

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