This past weekend the Rocky Mountain Intercollegiate Ski Aassociation (RMISA) met in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, to compete for their regional championships. In addition to the regional slalom and giant slalom competitions, an extra NCAA qualifying GS race, which did not count towards the team score for the invite, was also held.
After the weekend’s racing, the University of Denver took the team win with 710.5 points, the University of Colorado (CU) came in second with 618 points followed by Montana State University (MSU) with 558 points total.
“It feels good to be on the better side of these 100 points,” DU head coach Andy LeRoy said about winning the regionals by almost 100 points over CU. “In all my years of coaching at Denver, we have always been a favorite for the title. If we did win, I expected it; if we didn’t, I was disappointed.”
The victory bodes well for Denver’s momentum heading into NCAA Championships, which will be also hosted in Steamboat Springs March 7-10.
Just like it will be for NCAAs, the slalom race was held at night under the lights on Friday evening at Howelsen Hill.
In the women’s race, Denver’s Amelia Smart took the win followed closely by her teammate Andrea Kosmic and Jocelyn McCarthy of MSU, who finished just 0.04 and 0.09 seconds back, respectively. Denver was able to add a sixth place finish with Tuva Norbye and therefore won the women’s slalom rankings.
In the men’s slalom, the individual victory went to Vegard Busengdal from the University of New Mexico. Just like the women’s race, it was a tight result with Ola Buer Johansen of CU and Garret Driller of MSU coming into second and third, 0.21 and 0.25 seconds back, respectively.
On Saturday, the additional non team-scored qualifier GS took place. In the women’s race, it was another strong day for Denver as Kristine Fausa Aasberg took the win on her birthday. Second place went to MSU’s Stephanie Gartner, 0.76 second back, and Aasberg’s teammate Norbye finished in third place, 0.80 second off the pace. Both Denver and MSU had three athletes in the top ten.
The men’s giant slalom qualifier race was dominated by Utah and Denver; finishing with four and three athletes in the top ten, respectively. Nevertheless, the individual victory went to MSU’s Addison Dvoracek, followed by two non-collegiate racers in Jack Gower and Kyle Negomir who finished 0.32 and 0.39 seconds back in second and third, respectively.
On Sunday in the regional championship women’s GS, Aasberg showed her strength and dominance for this weekend in GS once again by winning the race. In fact, out of the four runs the women took in GS, she won three of them.
“She was outstanding this weekend,” said LeRoy. “Watching her ski in giant slalom was great; she seemed to be unbeatable in all her turns.”
CU’s Tonje Healey Trulsrud finished second and MSU’s Kari Bergheim came third.
Trulsrud was additionally honored over the weekend as RMISA MVP of the season. Male MVP honors also went to CU as Johansen won the title. CU won the title for the best team throughout the season as well, just ahead of Denver.
“I am really happy that we had the strongest team this year,” said Richard Rokos, head coach of CU. “But this weekend, Denver dominated. I see them now as the favorite for the NCAAs but this overall title of the season proves my hope. It’s going to be difficult in two weeks. Every racer will be important and any little mistake will hurt a team.”
The second giant slalom day was won by Gower in front of Negomir by only 0.04 seconds. The college ranking started with the third overall finisher, which was MSU’s Driller. Driller’s teammate and Saturday’s winner Dovracek finished in second for collegiate racers and Denver’s Alex Leever finished third. MSU won the men’s giant slalom team scoring with three athletes in the top ten.
Both LeRoy and Rokos acknowledged the other’s strengths looking ahead to another NCAA showdown in Steamboat.
“CU, in regards to alpine and nordic, has the broadest team of talent,” LeRoy said. “I think they’ve been winning or runner up for the last 10 years.”
“(Denver) showed extreme power this weekend – very impressive,” added Rokos. “In alpine, they just have the deepest depth of talent.”
In two weeks at NCAA Championships the rules will be different from a regular-season race as a maximum of three athletes for each gender can start for each school per NCAA rules. Any racer who does not finish or has a mistake might hurt their team and give other teams an opportunity in the fight for the big title.
Regardless, both LeRoy and Rokos say it is not a fight between them alone. The University of Utah is the reigning champion and has a very strong nordic team. Also, MSU might be good for a surprise, they have been able to win the alpine events of invites on numerous occasions this year, but, as it so often does at NCAAs, it will all come down on the performance of their nordic team.
“MSU’s work and development over the past years is amazing,” recognized Rokos. “The school decided to invest and be proud for the project of the ski team.”
Additionally, the two strong schools from the East, the University of Vermont and Dartmouth College, will be joining the battle. Everything is falling into place for exciting competitions in Steamboat Springs, starting with the men’s and women’s GS races on March 7.