The NCAA season kicked off this weekend with RMISA Qualifier and Denver Invitational held at Aspen Highlands Jan. 10-12. The season opener brought many strong performances from newcomers to the circuit, as well as returning upperclassmen.
The conditions for the first GS were excellent for the RMISA skiers — blue skies to start their University racing and an aggressive surface.
“The conditions in Aspen have been incredible despite receiving some fresh snow, the venue and preparation from their staff that has helped administer the race from the technical delegate, they made for incredible racing at the highest level so it has been a privilege to get to come here and compete and use this venue,” said Denver University head coach Andy Leroy.
Right out of the gate, CU’s Mikaela Tommy held the lead with bib 1 into the second run. She had a 0.9-second advantage over teammate Stefanie Fleckenstein. Fleckenstein overtook her for the second run, but Tommy held the top spot by a 0.55 margin, crowning the Buff’s 1 and 2 with Eirin Engeset (UU) rounding out the podium.
Friday marked Tommy’s fourth collegiate win to date and Fleckenstein’s first collegiate podium finish. As a team the CU women placed three in the top eight. Other notable performances include first year Henriette Resen (WMC) in fifth, and first year Nellie Talbot (MSU) in sixth.
The men’s race brought a new name to the top of the results sheet. Westminster first-year Mikkel Solbakken shined in his debut on the circuit winning the RMISA Qualifier GS on both runs. Solbakken finished the day winning by a substantial margin of 1.08 seconds with Aage Solheim (MSU) and Tobias Kogler (DU) in second and third.
Westminster had a great day with the men’s team placing three in the top six.
“It’s always fun to win a race I mean I just had a good day and skied what I did in training and what I did in the NorAm races so I am happy,” said Solbakken. “The team was really happy exceeding all expectations. We had a really good preseason, it’s a good group so I am really happy. Everyone is cheering for everyone, so it’s good.”
There were a few key skiers missing from the results this weekend, including four top skiers from DU.
“Of the six returning athletes from last year’s NCAAs and prior years NCAAs, two of the men and two of the women are over in Europe racing Europa Cups and World Cups, so my top couple skiers over the past couple years, they’ve got a different agenda for right now trying to go pro and break into that next level,” said Leroy.
Denver Invitational GS
On day one of the Denver Invitational and day two of GS, CU took home the gold for women again with Tommy coming back from third after the first run to win by 1.08 seconds. Haley Cutler (MSU) took silver and Eirin Engeset (UU) showed consistency taking third for the second day in a row. Tommy has now racked up five wins on the RMISA circuit.
It is Cutler’s first collegiate podium. “I was pretty nervous because the day before I had a good first run and blew it the second run so I was like ok just keep it together and I just told myself in the start just have fun just go ski and it worked,” she said. “I almost had tears in my eyes, it was such a happy and great feeling, I love feeling like that and I haven’t felt like that in a while in skiing so it was amazing.”
On the men’s side DU’s Tobias Kogler won coming back from a fifth place first run, winning by a small margin of 0.07 seconds. On his tails was Utah’s Addison Dvoracek, and MSU’s Aage Solheim. The previous day’s winner, Mikkel Solbakken, ended up fifth.
“The conditions were pretty aggressive, and you could do whatever you want on the skis like it usually is on the west and I really enjoyed the conditions,” she said.
Denver Invitational Slalom
Slalom marked the final day of the Denver Invitational where once again CU took the win for women and Utah claimed the gold for men. The conditions for the slalom were variable due to a new snow layer overnight.
“It wasn’t the best conditions wise, people that ran later said it was pretty chunked out,” commented Haley Cutler (MSU).
Stefanie Fleckenstein (CU) won the women’s race by 0.78 seconds with DU’s Andrea Komsic and DU’s Eleri Smart taking second and third. This marks Fleckenstein’s first collegiate win and Eleri Smart’s first collegiate podium as she debuts on the circuit this weekend.
“Eleri Smart, a first year on our team, she joined us this past week and she was tremendous out here,” said Leroy.
For men, Utah’s Joachim Lien took the gold, his first collegiate win. After winning first run by 0.77 seconds, he was able to maintain the top spot overall, winning by just 0.15 seconds. Aage Solheim (MSU) was close behind in second, and Mikkel Wahl (WMC) took home third. Rounding out the top five was DU’s Tobias Kogler, and Westminster’s Mikkel Solbakken who finished his debut weekend placing top five all three days.
Despite missing some key skiers, DU newcomers Colby Lane and Cole Puckett held their ground in SL placing sixth and eighth.
“Our freshmen Cole Puckett and Colby Lane fighting from the back of the pack they are trying to score points and move up closer and give themselves a chance to win and they did great so my take on DU at this invitational is that I am proud of every athlete that stepped in the start gate,” said Leroy.
The RMISA circuit continues next week at Eldora for the CU Invitational and RMISA Qualifier January 15-17.
RMISA Qualifier 1/10/20:
GS Women: Results
GS Men: Results
Denver Invitational 1/11/20:
GS Women: Results
GS Men: Results
Denver Invitational 1/12/20:
SL Women: Results
SL Men: Results
1. Utah 317; 2. Denver 306; 3. Westminster 288; 4. Colorado 278; 5. Montana State 274; 6. Alaska Anchorage 181; 7. Colorado Mountain 152.