Kickoff on the Western NCAA Circuit
The Rocky Mountain Intercollegiate Ski Association (RMISA) kicked off their season last weekend with the Montana State Invitational in Big Sky, Montana.
The western alpine university teams faced snowy conditions during one slalom and two giant slalom races as athletes dealt with flurries and flat light. One of the top female skiers of past seasons, Ann-Kathrin Breuning from Germany and the University of Utah said, “It is a bit softer than last year, but nevertheless the conditions are great!”
Due to the soft conditions the course sets were relatively easy from a technical standpoint, though University of Denver head coach, Andy LeRoy, said he expected to see tougher sets in the upcoming races.
Even though it snowed Saturday, the races were exciting and ended with tight results, especially for the women. In the first GS, which only counted as a qualifier for the NCAA championships in March and is not part of the fight for the Montana State Invitational, the women’s podium was split by only 0.03 seconds. Charley Field of the University of Alaska Anchorage won her first race in front of Utah’s Breuning and Montana State’s Hole Kari Bergheim, who finished second and third, respectively.
“It’s a big confidence booster, this is my senior year and I’ve never actually won a race,” Field said. “I’m just happy about my first win, the good start to the season, and that I can be a good team member for my fellow Seawolves.”
On the men’s side, the first race ended with a win for Garret Driller of Montana State, who surprised himself with his good result. Driller also competes as a member of the U.S. Ski Team’s C Team while he finishes his studies.
“GS has never been my strong one,” Driller said. “I am more of a slalom skier, but having this result as the backbone to the season is definitely good to stand on.”
Behind Driller, Ola Buer Johansen of the University of Colorado came in second place, 0.43 seconds back and the U.S. Ski Team’s Luke Winters finished third, 0.71 seconds shy of the win.
Sunday’s GS was the official start of the invitational, where team scores were counted. In the women’s race, The University of New Mexico’s Katherine Irwin took the win, with Colorado’s Tonje Healey Trulsrud placing second and Denver’s Kristine Fausa Aasberg finishing third.
For the men, Winters managed to take the overall win and Johansen finishished as the top NCAA skier in second, 0.51 seconds back with Utah’s Samuel Dupratt finding his first podium of the series in third. New Mexico’s Vegard Busengdal was the third college finisher in fourth place overall.
“It was a very good start for me,” Johansen said. “I didn’t really expect to be that far up this early in the college season but I made four really good runs so I’m very happy.”
Even though Driller managed a second place in Monday’s slalom race, he was not the man of the weekend. The most dominant skier of the Montana Invitational on the alpine side was Johansen. After finishing both GS races as the runner-up, the Colorado Buffs ended up winning in slalom as Busengdal rounded out the podium in third.
On the women’s side, Trulsrud finished her weekend on a high, taking the slalom by 0.16 seconds ahead of her fellow Buff, Nora Grieg Christensen. Redneck Racing’s Julia Ford finished in third-place overall, 0.86 seconds back. Denver’s Amelia Smart was the third place college skier in fourth overall.
After the alpine races, Colorado is leading the team standings with 306 points over Denver with 297 and Montana State with 272; but the Montana State Invitational is not yet decided as the nordic teams still need complete their races scheduled for Jan. 13-14.
For complete results, click here.
For the RMISA Alpine teams, the next competitions are the Utah Invitational in Snowbasin, Utah, on Jan. 11-13.