Last week, the Rocky Mountain Intercollegiate Ski Association (RMISA) met for the second race series of the Western NCAA season in Snowbasin, Utah, for the Utah Invitational, competing in one giant slalom and one slalom for women and men over the course of three days.
The kickoff to the series was the women’s giant slalom on Thursday, which ended up being dominated by the University of Denver as they went first, second, and fourth for university skiers. Head coach, Andy LeRoy, was happy about the result but also quite self-assured about his women’s team.
“I think our ladies are just that good,” he said. “We simply needed tougher courses and snow conditions for them to create some separation on the field.”
The first day of racing was also noteworthy and emotional for the winner Kristine Fausa Aasberg. Aasberg has been fighting her way back from an injury suffered before her collegiate career started and she was delighted at her success. Aasberg’s teammate Tuva Norbye finished second and the University of Colorado’s Tonje Healey Trulsrud rounded out the podium in third.
“Since I got injured I always worked hard for get that feeling of winning back,” Aasberg told RMISA. “I was so hungry for it and nothing tastes better.”
On Friday, Denver was able to take home the second win of the series in the men’s giant slalom, thanks to some great racing conditions. Freshman, Jett Seymour, won in front of Addison Dvoracek in second and Morten Ungersness Bakke in third, both from Montana State University.
“I didn’t know if the surface was going to be super great,” Seymour said. “There was some sugar on top, but it got down to a perfect surface and it was great both runs.”
The exception to the conditions on Friday was the light in some runs. For some racers, it became shadowy and with the shadows there was also flat light.
The Denver Pioneers could not follow the performance of their women’s team in dominating the men’s race. The University of Montana placed racers in second, third, and 13th place and the University of Utah took fifth, eighth, and ninth place and skied strongest in the team scoring.
In Saturday’s slalom race, Colorado’s Nora Grieg Christensen won for the women and the University of New Mexico’s Vegard Busengdal took top spot on the men’s side.
Christensen was happy with her win and credited her victory to strong skiing in a challenging second run set.
“The second run was just okay,” she shared. “I had to stay in the groove, ski a clean run and stay ahead of the course and most others had some mistakes.”
Following Christensen on the women’s podium, Montana State’s Jocelyn McCarthy came in second and Denver’s Andrea Komsic was third. Redneck Racing’s, Julia Ford, also finished third overall, but does not count in the college scoring.
On the men’s side, Busengdal was joined by Colorado’s Ola Buer Johansen in second and Montana State’s Morten Bakke in third. American NTG athlete, Ben Ritchie, finished in third overall but like Ford, does not count when team point totals are tallied.
“It is still early in the season and we have never been better, but we need a bit more training to get more consistency in,” Montana State head coach Brian Francis said of his team’s performance. “But my athletes are ready for some recovery after two tiring weeks.”
In contrast to the giant slalom races, no school was able to dominate the slaloms. All schools except for the University of Utah had three racers positioned in the top 15. Utah is the defending NCAA champion this season, but the alpine team is struggling so far.
In Montana, the Utes alpine team only managed a fifth-place finish with the nordic teams starting their races in Montana tomorrow. With the results of the past three days, it is not possible for the Utes to place higher than fourth at their home invite.
Looking at this season’s roster, the Utes alpine team has just three female members, which seems to be a risk for the defending champions. The women’s team must stay injury free if the Utes want to bring all three female athletes to the NCAA championships at the end of the season in Steamboat, Colorado. The rest of the season will show if this turns out to be a bad decision as the options for head coach Jaka Korencan are limited.
At the conclusion of the series, Denver leads the alpine scoring with 329 points, followed by Montana State in second with 293.5 and Colorado in third with 273. The nordic portion of the Utah Invitational takes place Jan. 18-19.
The teams have now a few days of well-earned break and time for training before the New Mexico Invitational in Red River, New Mexico, with two slalom races on Feb. 3-4.
For complete results from the Utah Invitational, click here.