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From the start of the season, the University of Colorado ski team has had a 20th NCAA championship in mind. But Saturday’s final result put that quest on hold until next season.
The Buffs finished fourth at the NCAA Skiing Championships in Park City, Utah. Colorado failed to defend its title, finishing behind the Universities of Denver, Vermont and New Mexico. In the end, CU fell 153.5 points behind the champions from Denver.
At the end of day one, Colorado found themselves in fourth place, 37.5 points behind first-placed Utah. The Buffs finished the day with three top-10 finishes in giant slalom. On the women’s side, sophomore Brooke Wales finished in fifth place with 29 points, despite witnessing all three skiers before her and the skier after her fall on their second run. Another sophomore, Jessica Honkonen, charged her way up the ranking, finishing ninth after posting the sixth-best time of the day on her second run. Sophmore Thea Grosvold came in 22nd and added nine points to Colorado’s score. Overall, the women gained a fourth-best 60 points in giant slalom.
The men were led by sophomore Henrik Gunnarsson. The Sweden native had his best career giant slalom finish at 2:00.41 and placed fifth, earning the Buffs another 29 points. This personal record also got Gunnarsson a first-team All-American nomination.
Gunnarsson’s teammates, senior Andreas Haug and sophomore Kasper Hietanen, finished 11th and 12th, respectively. Haug missed finishing in the top 10, and the All-America honors that come with it, by just 1 1/100 of a second. The men’s giant slalom unit was third-best overall and contributed 67.5 points to the Buffs total score.
The second day of competition began with the men’s 10-kilometer Nordic race. Junior Rune Oedegaard repeated as champion of this race, winning his second Individual NCAA Championship as a Buff. Oedegaard finished 11 seconds ahead of Denver’s Pierre Guedon. Oedegaard’s first-place finish secured a much-needed 40 points for Colorado.
Oedegaard was not the only Buff to see success in the 10-kilometer classical. Freshman Mads Stroem finished fourth, less than 11 seconds back from seeing the podium. Overall, Colorado gained 83 points from the men’s 10-kilometer classical, second only to Denver, which finished with 89 points.
Colorado lost some ground on the women’s side after finishing 14th as a team in the 5-kilometer classical, securing just 30 points overall. Freshman Camilla Brautaset had the best finish for the Buffs and placed 16th. Next best for Colorado were two freshmen, Lucy Newman and Maja Solbakken, who finished 23rd and 24th.
At the end of day two, Colorado sat in third place overall, 58.5 points behind top-ranked Denver.
Day three was postponed due to weather. Skiers complained the courses were soft due to the high temperatures in Utah, and the slushy snow presented a threat to the safety of the athletes. Consequently, the slalom events that were set to take place Friday were pushed to Saturday.
Saturday morning started off well for the Buffs. Stroem finished first in the men’s 20-kilometer freestyle race by seven seconds and thus rounded out the individual titles for Colorado in the Men’s Nordic events. Rune Oedegaard finished 15th, while junior Arnaud Du Pasquier finished 36th. They totaled 56 points for the Buffs. The women added 39 points to Colorado’s total as Brautaset finished in 11th place, followed by Solbakken in 12th place. Newman finished 36th.
Colorado needed a miracle in the slalom to defend its title, but the men’s skiers gathered a dismal 10 points combined in the slalom races. Henrik Gunnarsson was disqualified after video review revealed that he straddled a gate. And Andreas Haug, in his last race for CU, finished 21st. Hietanen finished last after being forced to hike up the mountain after missing a gate.
While the Buffs did not reach their goal for the season, they will look to de-throne Denver and reclaim their seat at the top of NCAA skiing in 2015.
Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Sean Kelly at firstname.lastname@example.org