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NCAAs: Abbi Lathrop, Veenis rule GS; UNH leads first day

NCAAs: Abbi Lathrop, Veenis rule GS; UNH leads first day{mosimage}STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, Colorado – Abbi Lathrop showed that she’s ready to follow identical twin sister Jenny onto the U.S. Ski Team.

The Colby College senior laid down the two fastest runs of the day on a snowy, bumpy course to win the NCAA giant slalom title Wednesday, adding to the silver medal she won in GS last year. Scott Veenis, a freshman at the University of Utah, stormed down under Steamboat’s Storm Peak to win the men’s title.

Lathrop beat Florence Roujas from the University of Denver by a tenth of a second, and defending GS champion Jamie Kingsbury from the University of Vermont survived catching an outside edge near the bottom of second run to take the final podium spot. In the men’s race, Veenis was almost a full second ahead of Denver’s Francesco Ghedina. Lars Loeseth from the University of New Mexico skied the fastest second run to jump from ninth to third.

The big surprise was the day-one team leader. The University of New Hampshire women all finished in the top 13 and helped put the Wildcats in the lead by 1.5 points over Denver, 161 to 159.5. Thanks to Veenis’ win, Utah wrapped up the day in third with 148 points.

Snow fell overnight in Steamboat, covering the GS hill in half-a-foot of snow. Snow continued to fall throughout the day, making visibility tough and course conditions wild. Almost a third of the women’s field had problems, and Stefanie Klocker fared the worst. The Alaska-Anchorage skier fell on one of the final gates during her second run and broke her arm. She did manage to cross the finish line to score points for the Seawolves.

But Lathrop had a textbook day. She credited her win to a really close course inspection and the knowledge of when to hold back and when to hit the gas. Cautious and ragged on top, she nailed the pitch both runs, then didn’t falter as the race funneled into a tight gully with subtle sidehills that threw off several racers. ‘I tried to stay right on them and carried my speed down the hill’ she said. ‘On the flat, I just let them roll because I knew I’d be tired down here and breathing really hard. I probably could have been more aggressive but I was just trying to hold on and keep them running.’

A history major at Colby, Lathrop spent more time in the library than in the gym first semester and struggled in the early part of the season. ‘It was brutal missing the prep period in the fall’ she confessed. But she spent January racing in Europe with sister Jenny, then gradually found her form throughout February. After a great week of training in Steamboat, she poled into the start full of confidence.

Veenis, on the other hand, didn’t think an NCAA title was in his future. ‘We had a few days of training here, and I wasn’t skiing that hot’ the Ute freshman said. ‘But then it felt good out of the start first run. It just clicked.’

Still, he wasn’t counting his chickens before second run. ‘Everyone out here is pretty fast. People can make big moves up. But I just thought I needed a clean run with no mistakes. Everyone has to battle these conditions. The less mistakes you have, you’ll be in there.’

The men’s second run didn’t start until well after 3 p.m., and more than an inch of snow fell during the course of that run. Every male skier save Veenis crossed the finish line in despair. Ghedina, in second after the first run, thought for sure he had lost a spot on the podium when he got late on the pitch and ended up in the powder, almost missing a gate.

The UVM men had a particularly rough day. The Catamounts took over the team lead after the first men’s run but ended the day in fourth after Greg Hardy took a panel in the face second run and lost a handful of seconds. Then, in a case of ‘finish-line fever’ Zach Brown missed the last gate. Paul Epstein hung on to a top-10 spot though.

Colorado also struggled. After winning their own invitational in Steamboat a month ago by almost a record score, the Buffaloes came to NCAAs as a heavy favorite, despite the fact that they qualified only 11 of 12 skiers, and their top men’s alpine skier, Pat Duran, fractured his femur during training on Monday. With one of the strongest women’s alpine teams on the circuit, head coach Richard Rokos was looking to pad his score in women’s GS.

But it wasn’t Sabrina Mocellin’s day. First run, an oblivious spectator wandered onto the course, forcing Colorado’s top GS skier to ski out and wait for a rerun. Then, hauling toward the finish second run, she hooked the fifth-to-last gate, spun around and had to hike. Then the Buffaloes fell to sixth with 109 points, tied with Middlebury, after their best-placing male alpine skier came in 24th.

The championship continues on Thursday at Howelsen Hill with the women’s 5 km interval start race at 9:30 a.m., and the men’s 10 km race at 11:30 a.m.

Team scores after men’s and women’s GS
1. New Hampshire, 161
2. Denver, 159.5
3. Utah, 148
4. Vermont, 130
5. New Mexico, 126
6. Colorado and Middlebury, 109
8. Dartmouth, 103
9. Bates, 85
10. Alaska-Anchorage, 82
11. Nevada, 80
12. Williams, 64.5
13. Colby, 59
14. Montana State, 44
15. Boise State, 24
16. Western State, 19.

Women’s GS
1. Abbi Lathrop, CBC 2:16.85
2. Florence Roujas, DU 2:16.95
3. Jamie Kingsbury, UVM 2:17.68
4. Lucie Zikova, CU 2:18.21
5. Lisa Perricone, CU 2:18.21
6. Spela Bertoncelj, MSU 2:20.41
7. Kristina Repcinova, UAA 2:20.47
8. Stephanie Vaughan, UNH 2:20.75
9. Jilyne McDonald, UVM 2:21.59
10. Michelanne Shields, DAR 2:21.80
11. Leanne Smith, UNH 2:22.46
12. Allison Empey, UAA 2:22.66
13. Sydney Mikkelson, UNH 2:24.07
14. Mattie Ford, MID 2:24.69
15. Falck-Pedersen, DU 2:258.15
16. Zuzana Charvatova, BSU 2:25.17
17. Megan Papineau, BAT 2:25.54
18. Kristen Poehling, MID 2:25.60
19. Amy Beresford, UNM 2:26.28
20. Erika Hogan, UU 2:26.69
21. Kimberly Stephans, UU 2:26.69
22. Whitney Fahy, BAT 2:27.34
23. Mikaela Grassl, UU 2:28.02
24. Elizabeth Thompson, BAT 2:28.63
25. Kathrin Spendier, UNM 2:29.98
26. Sealy Livermore, DAR 2:35.00
27. Sabrina Mocellin, CU 2:48.39
28. Hilary McCloy, UVM 2:51.16
29. Jenny Tank, DU 3:00.88
30. Karin Ohlin, UNM 3:26.38
31. Stefanie Klocker, UAA 6:51.49
DNF, first run
Alexandra Fucigna, DAR
DNF, second run
Cecily Lowenthal, WIL
Disqualified, Second Run
Megan Hughes, MID

Men’s GS
1. Scott Veenis, Utah 2:12.19
2. Francesco Ghedina, DU, 2:13.13
3. Lars Loeseth, UNM, 2:13.57
4. Scott Hume, UNR, 2:13.75
5. Sean McNamara, UNH, 2:13.86
6. Karl Johnson, Dart., and Eric Mann, Will., 2:14.00
8. Paul Epstein, UVM, 2:14.68
9. Charles Christianson, Will., 2:14.98
10. Luke Patterson, UNR, 2:15.13
11. Gaspar Perricone, Utah, 2:15.69
12. Tor Fodnesbergene, UNM, 2:15.81
13. Andrew Wagner, Midd., 2:16.39
14. David Chodunsky, Dart., and Todd Ligare, DU, 2:16.42
16. Will McDonald, Utah, 2:16.60
17. Andrew Everett, Midd., 2:17.34
18. John Buchar, DU, 2:17.88
19. Joe Dunn, UNH, 2:18.93
20. Leo Menard, Bates, 2:19.07
21. Andre Hokholt, WSC, 2:19.31
22. Greg Hardy, UVM, 2:19.65
23. John Martz, UNH, 2:19.73
24. Jean-Francois Ferreira, CU, 2:20.41
25. Alex Mach, UNM, 2:20.50
26. Cameron Barnes, UNR, 2:20.55
27. Charlie Reed, Colby, 2:20.89
28. Timothee Theaux, UAA, 2:22.00
29. Clayton Reed, Midd., 2:46.85
30. Cory Harris, MSU, 2:48.65
31. Josh Bryan, CU, 3:11.45
32. Sean McKenna, Bates, 3:50.63
33. Jody Centauro, Colby, 8:03.79.
DNF, first run
Erik Johnson, DAR
Disqualified, second run
Zachary Brown, UVM

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