JACKSON, N.H.–After a strong final day, the University of Utah will fly home from New Hampshire as the 2017 NCAA Champions. The Utes put five of their six skiers in the top ten in the Nordic freestyle races on Saturday to take the win away from the University of Denver. The Utes sat in second place after Friday’s slalom races, 35 points behind. They made up more than what they needed to take national title with 541.5 points. The University of Colorado placed second with 525 points and the University of Denver fell to third place with 524 points.
Utah ended a 14-year title drought by winning this year. Their last national championship came in 2003.
The East Coast delivered the cold weather it’s known for on the final day of racing with temperatures hovering around zero degrees Fahrenheit all day. A national champion needed to be crowned, so the athletes taped their faces and braved the wind at Jackson Ski Touring Center.
All of Utah’s nordic men, Martin Bergstroem, Martin Mikkelsen and Kevin Bolger, finished in the top ten of the 20 kilometer freestyle race, winning the event with 84 points. As for their women, Merete Myrseth and Guro Jordheim came in fifth and sixth, respectively, and Natalia Mueller placed 14th.
Denver was the team to beat up until the very last race, the women’s 15-kilometer freestyle, but the DU women faltered, scoring just 26 points for seventh place in the event.
The University of Colorado’s women did their best to take first place themselves. CU’s Petra Hyncicova and Christina Rolandsen took first and third in the women’s 15k, but it was not enough and their team would have to settle for second place.
The University of Utah placed first overall among Nordic teams. Freshman Martin Bergstroem took both the men’s classic and freestyle races and all together Utah’s Nordic team compiled nine top ten finishes of a possible 12.
Comparatively, Utah’s alpine team only compiled six top ten finishes and placed fifth among alpine teams. Head Alpine Coach Jaka Korencan said that he knew they had a good overall team, and on the alpine side, they just didn’t capitalize in the slalom races. Utah only had three athletes in the top 20 of the slalom races on Friday.
Even with the low output in the slalom, Korencan said he met with Utah’s Nordic coaches that night and said, “You guys got it.”
“It really takes the whole team to win this thing,” Korencan noted, while adding that of course it is really hard to predict how race days will go, especially in big events like the NCAA Championships. “Fortunately it was a good day for us.”
In some difficult conditions, the nordic and alpine teams put in strong enough performances to take the win.
“It feels incredible,” he continued. “We have an amazing team both on the nordic and alpine side and hard work and not just good athletes, but good people in general, so I’m really proud of them. They’ve been working really hard. Not just this year, but they’ve been working really hard for this, some of them for four years now, and they definitely deserve it.”
Complete results from the NCAA Championships can be found here.