All the NCAA racers from the West gathered in Bozeman, Mt this weekend, (Feb. 22-24), for the RMISA Regional Championships hosted by Montana State University. It was the last series of RMISA races in the regular season, and a final chance for racers to qualify and seed themselves for the NCAA championships. Other than the nordic-only team of Alaska Fairbanks, each team in the RMISA qualified full 12-person NCAA teams of three men and three women for Nordic and Alpine.
The races began with the women’s 5K, and men’s 10K classic events. The day belonged to the 2013 RMISA undefeated Champs, the CU Buffaloes, as they stampeded their way to double wins, and a podium sweep for the ladies. The Buff-pair of Joanne Reid and Eliska Hajkova are no strangers to RMISA podiums this year, but this time the third step was shared by their teammate, Maria Nordstroem. To top off an amazing day for the Buffs, Rune Oedegaard came through with a win on the men’s side. He defeated the RMISA MVP from Utah, Miles Havlick by only .3 seconds after 28 minutes of racing. The close gap was insane considering it was not a mass start event, and neither competitor could see how fast their rival was.
The 15K freestyle showed the same domination from the CU ladies, who remarkably swept the podium for the second day in a row. Eliska Hajkova defeated her dominant teammate Joanne Reid, and once again Maria Nordstroem finished third… a major confidence boost for CU going into the NCAA Championships.
Like a true champion Joanne Reid (pictured right) is not so focused on her performance at Regionals, as she is planning ahead for the pinnacle of NCAA skiing…. The National Championships, “clearly we are extremely excited about our double sweep,” said Reid, “but all eyes are on the prize now for Nationals, so we’ll just go out and do our best and see what happens.”
The CU women’s freestyle performance was matched by the Utah men in the 20K freestyle, as they finished four men in the top-five. Miles Havlick took the win, with Einar Ulsund in third and Niklas Persson and Noe Bellet in fourth and fifth. Rune Oedgaard was the only competitor who could hang with the mighty Utes, collecting a valuable 2nd place for CU.
As the team captain for Utah, Miles Havlick (pictured right) is disappointed his team lost against CU all season, but feels confident his team can pull it together at Nationals. “It is a big contrast from last year, going into NCAA Championships as the undefeated heavy favorites and now this year, still looking for our first team victory,” said Havlick. “However, this time, we have no pressure and we are just as talented and dangerous as last year.”
The alpine races kicked off on Saturday, Feb. 23, with a snowy day of GS at Bridger Bowl. Competitors and race organizers spent all morning slipping off a foot of fresh powder, and finally got down to a decent layer for racing. The soft snow combined with lots of slipping created a minefield of big ruts, bumps, and dishes for the racers to navigate around.
The difficult conditions didn’t faze the Utah ladies as Ana Kobal and Kristiina Rove came down with the two fastest first runs, separated by only six hundredths of a second. Kristine Haugen from DU battled her way from a 30th starting position to finish third on the run. She then posted the fastest second run to win the race, pulling off the impressive feat of an undefeated season in RMISA GS. Kristina Rove skied to a strong second place, .74 ahead of the UNM racer, Mateja Robnik. “It’s awesome that we have such a high level in our races, and it’s awesome to have her (Kristine Haugen) pushing us to ski faster,” said Rove. “I’m happy I could perform in those tough conditions. I’ve been improving all season, so I’m happy about that, and I’m happy to get a good result right before NCAA’s.”
On the men’s side, Chris Acosta, took advantage of an early start position to win the first run ahead of the DU pair, Espen Lysdahl and Max Marno. Conditions on the second run were no easier than the first, and Acosta demonstrated his mental toughness battling his way through the ruts to hold on for the win, his second GS victory of the season. The Utah skier, Jeremy Elliot started 27th on the first run, and worked his way up to second place overall after a fast second run, while the DU racer, Espen Lysdahl, finished a close third.
On Sunday, Feb. 25th, the alpine racers headed out with their slalom gear for the final race of the RMISA season. The soft snow surface quickly turned the courses into mogul fields, but the beautiful blue skies made for an uplifted mood.
The men ran first, and it quickly became apparent that start positions would play a huge role because of the deteriorating course conditions. Chris Acosta threw down the fastest first run, with Max Marno, Andreas Haug, and Espen Lysdahl all close behind. Acosta skied an impressive second run, but it wasn’t quite enough, as Espen Lysdahl charged to take the win, with Acosta in second, and Max Marno in third.
With his win in GS, and second place in slalom, Chris Acosta (pictured below) proved to be the fastest male skier of the weekend. His performance came at a good time, right before the Nationals. “This weekend at regionals it was my goal to secure first seed start positions for NCAA’s and I’m thrilled I took advantage of my last two races to make that happen” said Acosta. “Racing with my best friends, being around great coaches, parents, and getting my fix of powder turns made for a great weekend in Montana.”
On the women’s side Kristine Haugen kept the momentum from her GS win to throw down the fastest first run, a half second ahead of the slalom leader bib holder, Ana Kobal, and Mateja Robnik in third. The three ladies retained their first run positions to finish first, second, and third overall.
The RMISA certainly brings a high level of skiing, and it well be interesting to see how thing play out when West meets East at the 2013 NCAA Championships in Middlebury March 6-9.