FILE UNDER -- Nordic

NCAAs: Colorado wins national title as Denver struggles; New Mexico 2nd

NCAAs: Colorado wins national title as Denver struggles; New Mexico 2nd{mosimage}STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, Colo. The University of Colorado came to Steamboat as the favorite and didn’t disappoint. The Buffaloes skied inspired nordic races to turn the tide on defending champion Denver, which suffered a series of setbacks, from missed wax to disqualifications.

The Buffs tallied 654 points to win their 16th championship in the past 53 years. They also won four individual titles. The University of New Mexico came in a distant second with 556 points, while Dartmouth had one of its best championships in years, coming in third with 537.5 points. Denver was fourth with 522.5.

‘You dream about it for seven years, and then you execute it in four days’ CU head coach Richard Rokos said. ‘We proved something that was unprecedented and in theory only, that you could in fact win with a partial team. Everyone knew it was mathematically possible, but we needed to prove it physically. It goes to the credit of all those kids who came in and wanted to prove just that, even though we were underdogs.’

To seal the deal for Colorado, Kit Richmond and Jana Rehemaa — the classic champion — won the freestyle titles. Richmond, in bed with a stomach virus and flu symptoms the day NCAAs began, recovered dramatically. ‘I was really sick on Thursday and didn’t know how I was going to feel today’ Richmond said. ‘I took a really short warm-up. I just didn’t know how I was going to feel, so I went out there and skied conservative. My legs were on the threshold of blowing up on me, so my teammates were helping me out a bit to lead, switching off. It all came together in the end. I had just enough left to make a jump.’

The Canadian led the Buffaloes in their best nordic performance all season. Had Benjamin Sonntag from Alaska-Anchorage not grabbed second place, the Buffs would have swept the podium. Richmond’s teammate Erling Christiansen rounded out the podium.

In the women’s race, Rehemaa skied away from the pack on the second lap, along with Johanna Turunen from Alaska-Fairbanks and Evelyn Dong from Middlebury. On the final descent, the Estonian broke away from the other two and crossed the line along. Turunen and Dong sprinted for second, with the Nanooks skier taking the silver.

‘I felt kind of tired today, so I didn’t try to break away before’ Rehemaa said. ‘I just tried on the last kilometer.

Overall, it’s the 17th national ski championship for Colorado counting the 1982 AIAW one before the men’s and women’s programs were combined.

Denver’s fortunes turned during the slalom, and its usually strong men’s nordic team couldn’t make up the points. Two Pioneers women were disqualified in slalom, and their top male skier fell from third to 29th after making a mistake second run. Denver went to bed Friday night with a 23.5-point deficit on Colorado.

On the first day with no snow falling since the championships began, Denver couldn’t get it going in freestyle. John Stene and Rene Reisshauer skied together far behind the leaders, crossing the line in 10th and 11th, respectively. It was a disappointing race for Stene, who said he felt good but his skis were slow.

It was a bittersweet finish for Denver’s director of skiing Kurt Smitz, who has coached the Pioneers since the ski team was revived in 1992. Smitz announced his retirement, and his replacement has not been named.

‘I’m trying to take back a personal life’ Smitz says. ‘I’m married now. There are things that have come into perspective of value that sometimes when you’re going solo on the circuit you miss. I came in in ‘92-’93 and helped build the program. The championship was in Steamboat [that year]. I made commitments after last year to go 14 years later out in Steamboat, to go full circuit.’

NCAA Championship team scores
1. Colorado 654; 2. New Mexico 556; 3. Dartmouth 537½; 4. Denver 522½; 5. Vermont 516; 6. Alaska-Anchorage 451; 7. Middlebury 412; 8. Utah 400; 9. New Hampshire 309; 10. Alaska-Fairbanks 271; 11. Nevada 259; 12. Bates 189; 13. Montana State 185; 14. Northern Michigan 154; 15. Williams 137½; 16. Colby 130½; 17. Western State 126½; 18. Whitman 62½; 19. Michigan Tech 62; 20. Boise State 50; 21. St. Lawrence 25; 22. Wisconsin-Green Bay 22; 23. St. Olaf 17; 24. Gustavus Adolphus 9.

Men’s 20 km freestyle
1. Kit Richmond, CU, 55:14.7; 2. Benjamin Sonntag, UAA, 55:16.4; 3. Erling Christiansen, CU, 55:20.1; 4. Henrik Hoye, CU, 55:39.1; 5. Glenn Randall, Dart., 55:39.6; 6. Brian Gregg, UAA, 55:40.0; 7. Marius Korthauer, UAF, 56:11.7; 8. Bart Dengel, UAF, 56:18.9; 9. Kjetil Dammen, UAA, 56:44.4; 10. John Stene, DU, 56:56.3; 11. Rene Reisshauer, DU, 56:58.5; 12. Anders Osthus, UVM, 57:03.5; 13. Michael Sinnott, Dart., 57:04.6; 14. Geir-Endre Rogn, UNM, 57:10.2; 15. Garrott Kuzzy, Mid., 57:21.3; 16. Josh Dayton,WSC, 57:38.2; 17. Erik Wikstrom, UAF, 57:38.4; 18. Jedd Young, UNM, 58:05.1; 19. Ryan Foster, UVM, 58:05.4; 20. Hunter Karnedy, SLU, 58:23.1; 21. Juergen Uhl, UVM, 58:40.9; 22. Dirk Grimm, UNM, 58:44.8; 23. Bryan Cook, NMU, 59:07.8; 24. Seth Hubbard, Bates, 59:18.6; 25. Mark Iverson, MSU, 59:19.0; 26. Erik Gjoemle, Utah, 59:30.5; 27. Lutz Preussler, UNR, 59:31.7; 28. Benjamin True, Dart., 59:41.4; 29. Sylvan Ellefson, Bates, 59:53.9; 30. Haavard Selseng, DU, 59:54.8; 31. Jess Kiesel, Utah, 1:00:15.3; 32. Fabian Figi, Utah, 1:00:22.0; 33. Andrew Richmond, WSC, 1:00:23.2; 34. Christian Coe, MSU, 1:01:34.6; 35. Karl Nygren, St. Olaf, 1:01:43.0; 36. Jacob Whitcomb, Mid., 1:02:35.2; 37. Tim Reynolds, Mid., 1:03:06.6; 38. Aaron Ditty, MTU, 1:04:09.3; 39. David Kurtz, WSC, 1:06:28.9.

Women’s 15 km freestyle
1. Jana Rehemaa, CU, 46:27.4; 2. Johanna Turunen, UAF, 46:37.4; 3. Evelyn Dong, Midd., 46:38.6; 4. Laura Valaas, Whit., 47:39.5; 5. Alison Crocker, Dart., 47:54.3; 6. Lenka Palanova, CU, 47:55.4; 7. Marit Rognmo, UNM, 47:59.6; 8. Kate Crawford, UVM, 48:00.6; 9. Maria Grevsgaard, CU, 48:06.2; 10. Laura Van Alst, UNM, 48:16.6; 11. Tami Kochen, NMU, 48:33.5; 12. Susan Dunklee, Dart., 48:39.5; 13. Ashley McQueen, Utah, 48:57.7; 14. Kasandra Rice, UAA, 49:02.5; 15. Nicole DeYong, UAA, 49:02.9; 16. Chelsea Holmes, UNR, 49:20.4; 17. Kristina Owen, MTU, 49:35.4; 18. Anna-Karin Maeki, DU, 49:50.1; 19. Cassidy Edwards, Midd., 49:52.4; 20. Mandy Bowden, MSU, 49:59.5; 21. Sara Schweiger, Utah, 50:01.0; 22. Kris Trysgstad-Saari, Dart., 50:06.2; 23. Crystin Jaques, UNM, 50:07.2; 24. Pavla Havlova, UAF, 50:12.0; 25. Anja Jokela, UVM, 50:24.1; 26. Eva Bohmova, UNR, 50:36.7; 27. Carina Hamel, UVM, 50:45.2; 28. Johanna Winters, UWGB, 50:51.0; 29. Ingvild Engesland, DU, 50:54.6; 30. Claire Rennie, MSU, 51:31.7; 31. Sally Johnson, UNR, 52:15.7; 32. Ashley Quiggle, WSC, 52:31.1; 33. Chandra Daw, GAC, 52:39.7; 34. Kaitlyn McElroy, Bates, 52:48.4; 35. Nicole Naef, Utah, 53:02.8; 36. Jenny Hamilton, Midd., 53:28.7; 37. Joanna Kinsman, UNH, 53:50.3. Did Not Finish-Karin Nilsson, DU; Lindsey Weier, NMU.

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