FILE UNDER -- Alpine

College: Colorado leads Colorado Invitational after nordic events

College: Colorado leads Colorado Invitational after nordic events{mosimage}A second straight day of continued success from its nordic teams, highlighted by another individual win and six top-10 finishes, enabled the University of Colorado ski team to extend its lead at the midway point of its own CU/Laura Sharpe Flood Memorial Ski Invitational after the conclusion of the nordic competition Saturday.

The No. 2 ranked Buffaloes went into Saturday with a 15-point lead over top-ranked Denver, the defending NCAA champion, and exited the day with a whopping 56-point advantage over New Mexico. Colorado has 321 points through four of the eight events, with the Lobos in second with 265, followed by Denver (261), Alaska-Anchorage (225), Utah (210) and Nevada (195) in the 11-team meet.

Colorado is in position to end a drought of 17 straight meets without a victory if it can maintain the lead at the alpine portion of the meet next weekend. CU’s last victory was also in its own invitational, three years ago this week at Eldora.

In that 2003 meet, Colorado set the point record for NCAA Western schools in a meet with 618, to date the only 600-plus performance with a 30-point individual scoring base. CU’s nordic teams scored 295 points in that competition, a school record until topped by the 321 logged this weekend.

The Buffaloes were able to set the mark, thanks to 13 top-10 finishes in four races (actually all in the top nine), with Denver a distant second with eight top-10 efforts, with New Mexico posting seven.

CU freshman Lenka Palanova won her second race of the season, capturing the women’s 15-kilometer freestyle Saturday afternoon with ease. She skied the three laps around the Howelsen Hill nordic course in 49:21.7, besting senior teammate Jana Rehemaa by almost 43 seconds, the largest margin of victory on the women’s side in 2006, also the second-widest win including men’s competition. Palanova won the 10 km freestyle in Montana State’s meet two weeks ago.

Sophomore Maria Grevsgaard followed up her victory Friday in the 5 km classical with a sixth-place finish in 50:44.9.

The men’s 20-kilometer freestyle opened Saturday’s events, and after more than 12 miles of skiing, when the smoke cleared, only 10.4 seconds separated the top nine finishers — including just seven-tenths of a second between the top three and 2.7 seconds for the first five in one of the closest races in recent memory. The pack remained tight from just after the start until the finish.

New Mexico’s Dirk Grimm won in a 58:10.1 time, edging Alaska’s Kjetil Dammen (58:10.7), who in turn eked out second in a photo finish over CU sophomore Erling Christiansen by one-tenth of a second as Christiansen finished in 58:10.8.

Alaska and Colorado were the only schools to place three finishers among the top 10, as the Seawolves earned 81 team points and the Buffs 74. Sophomore Kit Richmond finished seventh in 58:19.9 and senior Henrik Hoye ninth in 58:20.5 to support Christiansen’s bronze effort.

‘It was OK today. It’s just skiing’ a humble Christiansen said following his best finish of the year. ‘I am not in shape enough yet to ski away from the group. But I will be.’

‘I think we are where we want to be (at the midway point of the season)’ CU nordic coordinator Bruce Cranmer said. ‘There are some bits and pieces we need to improve on, but nothing major. The challenge is to peak at the right time and to avoid sickness, which is often prevalent.

Steamboat will host the 53rd annual NCAA Championships March 8-11, and with Colorado the host, the Buffs moved their meet from Eldora to Steamboat so the Western schools could have a trial run.

Colorado skiers have now won seven individual titles this winter, almost doubling the total (four) from 2005. That leads all schools in the West, as Denver and New Mexico both have had skiers reach the top of the podium five teams, with Alaska, Utah and Whitman all having one individual champion.

The meet resumes next weekend, as the alpine teams will take center stage Friday and Saturday (Feb. 3-4), with giant slaloms at Mount Werner and the slaloms at Howelsen Hill. The women’s GS and the men’s slalom will be run on Friday, and the men’s GS and women’s slalom on Saturday; the slaloms will have 5 p.m. start times for the first run, signaling the first-ever night races ever among Western teams.

– University of Colorado

Colorado Invitational results
Team scores
1. Colorado 321; 2. New Mexico 265; 3. Denver 261; 4. Alaska-Anchorage 225; 5. Utah 210; 6. Nevada 195; 7. Montana State 158; 8. Western State 112; 9. Wyoming 58; 10. Whitman 54; 11. Boise State 0.

Men’s 20 km freestyle
1. Dirk Grimm, UNM, 58:10.1; 2. Kjetil Dammen, UAA, 58:10.7; 3. Erling Christiansen, CU, 58:10.8; 4. Benjamin Sonntag, UAA, 58:12.2; 5. Rene Reisshauer, DU, 58:12.8; 6. Brent Knight, UAA, 58:18.4; 7. Kit Richmond, CU, 58:18.9; 8. Geir-Endre Rogn, UNM, 58:19.5; 9. Henrik Hoye, CU, 58:20.5; 10. John Stene, DU, 59:39.6. Other Area Results-14. Nick Sterling, CU, 1:01:04.5; 19. Garrett Reid, CU, 1:01:41.7; 20. Josh Smith, CU, 1:02:02.3; 21. Taylor Shelden, DU, 1:02:11.1; 23. Josh Dayton, WSC, 1:02:57.5; 25. Mario Peng, WSC, 1:03:19.8; 26. Dan Clark, DU, 1:03:22.5; 28. Andy Richmond, WSC, 1:04:02.0; 29. Kyle Ahern, DU, 1:04:02.6; 31. David Kurtz, WSC, 1:05:34.3; 32. Joaquin Goodpaster, CU, 1:05:42.2; 38. Espen Haugen, DU, 1:06:46.3; 40. Ben Storrud, WSC, 1:09:12.7; 45. Pasha Kahn, WSC, 1:12:40.4. DNF-Havard Selseng, DU.

Women’s 15 km freestyle
1. Lenka Palanova, CU, 49:21.7; 2. Jana Rehemaa, CU, 50:04.0; 3. Nicole Naef, UU, 50:20.4; 4. Marit Rognmo, UNM, 50:30.4; 5. Ashley McQueen, UU, 50:40.5; 6. Maria Grevsgaard, CU, 50:44.9; 7. Anna-Karin Maeki, DU, 50:52.4; 8. Chelsea Holmes, UN, 51:16.7; 9. Laura Vanalst, UNM, 51:26.5; 10. Mandy Bowden, MSU, 51:35.9.

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