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The defending national champion CU ski team could not retain its position atop the podium at this year’s NCAA Championships in Jackson and Attitash, N.H. The team finished in third place with 592 points after the four-day affair that began on March 7.
At last year’s championship, the ski team battled from sixth place to claim the national title. After the first day of this year’s competition, the skiers found themselves in fifth place, once again hoping to seal the overall victory in a come-from-behind fashion.
In the end, Dartmouth tallied 698 points to become the first eastern school to win the national title since 1994. The University of Denver finished behind Dartmouth with 648 points.
“We were disappointed with the results since we won gold last year. We had a strong team this year, and people kind of expected the same results,” said junior international affairs major Maria Grevsgard. “Of course it does take good team effort to be third in the championships.”
The weather played a significant factor, said head coach Richard Rokos.
“The increasing uphill drafts hit us hard, and there is no easy way to fight it,” Rokos said. “I felt that under normal circumstances we would have had a much better chance to place better.”
The shift in altitude also affected the student-athletes, Grevsgard said.
In the Nordic competition, which opened the championship events, Grevsgard earned a sixth-place finish in the women’s 5-kilometer freestyle race.
Freshman business major Matt Gelso also finished sixth in the men’s 10-kilometer race.
Gelso was not available for comment.
The CU team advanced to fourth place after the second day of competition, which featured the giant slaloms. Junior finance major Lucie Zikova finished fourth and sophomore open-option major Lisa Perricone finished fifth in the women’s event.
The team edged into third place following the classical races on the third day. Grevsgard occupied third place after each of the first two laps in the women’s 15-kilometer but crossed the finish line fourth.
Gelso finished fifth in the men’s 20-kilometer classic.
The NCAA meet concluded with the slalom races. Zikova claimed runner-up honors for the women, and sophomore open-option major Josh Bryan started in the 24th position and managed to move up 14 spots, finishing 10th in the men’s slalom.
“We went day by day and tried not to look back. We were just trying to build on the next day and hope to move up,” Rokos said. “Even if we did not earn the highest trophy, I think it is a good foundation for future years.”
All 12 student-athletes who competed for CU in New Hampshire are scheduled to return for the 2007-08 school year.
“We came with a little higher expectations, but this was one of the youngest teams we have ever traveled to the NCAA Championships with,” Rokos said. “I think we paid a price for that, but they earned experience with the intense and team-oriented format.”
That team-oriented format is what the coach strives to instill among his skiers.
“The philosophy that they all have to buy into is team spirit because the ship sinks or floats with everyone on it,” Rokos said. “The individual approach is what all skiers do on the normal level, but it is important to know your teammates in college skiing.”
CU won two western meets this winter and tallied three second-place finishes as well. CU skiers won 14 races and posted 11 runner-up finishes out of 38. Skiers also finished in the top five 42 times.
“It was a great year, and everybody put so much effort into it,” Rokos said. “We posted good results at every level.”
The team skied with the motto “one team, one goal,” which created a good environment for the student-athletes, said Grevsgard.
And the team should have no problem sustaining that environment with a strong core of skiers returning next season.
“Very few changes are going to be made for next year,” Rokos said. “The good thing is that everybody knows each other, everybody has come along very well, and this is the best team chemistry I have had here in many years. It is really exciting to see, and it can get us far next season.”
Contact Campus Press staff writer Corey Jones at firstname.lastname@example.org.