CU skiing unable to win back-to-back NCAA titles

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It was a whirlwind couple of days for the University of Colorado ski team. The Buffs took the slopes of Steamboat Springs, Colorado to finish out the final two days of the NCAA Championships. After closing out day two in fourth, strong performances from both Nordic and Alpine were not quite enough to give the Buffs a back-to-back championship.

Colorado finished the meet in second, behind Denver, moving up two places in the last day of competition.

With Friday night’s slalom race under the lights of Howelsen hill, the downhill team was hoping for a stronger performance in the slalom than they had in day one’s giant slalom.

The CU women kicked off the evening with a fifth-place finish from freshman Nora Christensen. Christensen’s combined time of 1:31.24 put her just under two seconds behind the gold medal finisher and gave her her first top-10 finish in her collegiate career.

Freshman Tonje Trulsrud finished the race in fifteenth with a time of 1:32.07, and senior Thea Grosvold finished in sixteenth at 1:32.48 in her final race as a Buff.

Henrik Gunnarsson had himself a night as well. The senior closed out his collegiate career with a silver finish and a time of 1:24.66, just .02 seconds behind first place.  Gunnarsson, who crashed in the giant slalom race two days’ prior, had his best finish of eight NCAA Championship races.

Freshman Max Luukko was not far behind his teammate, finishing with a combined time of 1:25.41.

Noticeably absent from the top-ten was freshmen Ola Johansen, who arguably had the best season for the Buffs downhill team. Johansen, who slid off the course during his first run, managed to finish, but concluded his first Championships with a disappointing 33rd-place finish
As day three came to a close, the work the Alpine team did was just not enough to move them out of fourth place. The University of Denver had gained control of the lead with 405.5 points. Montana State followed in second with 390 points, and Utah trailed them with 362 points. Colorado, with 340.5 points, sat 65 points behind the Pioneers after six of eight events

Day four, the final day of the championships, ended with a sweep for junior Mads Stroem and an outstanding performance for the Nordic team. Stroem, who had won the 10-kilometer freestyle on Thursday, won Saturday’s 20-kilometer classic race as well. He barely edged out Denver’s Moritz Madlener by two seconds, after finishing the nearly 12.5-mile race with a time of 49:41.9. This is the sixth sweep by a Colorado skier in NCAA history.

Petter Reistad closed out his freshmen season with a ninth place finish after leading the pack for the entire first half of the race. Reistad finished the grueling event with a time of 51:17.3.

On the women’s side, sophomore Ane Johnsen skied her way onto the podium after a third place finish in the 15-kilometer classic. Her 54:58.8 finishing time helped her to her second-best finish of her career.

Junior Jesse Knori helped make the difference in the team’s overall finish, after scoring a fifth place time of 55:13, in her first championships.

The Buffs finished the team competition with 491.5 points and a runner-up finish. This is the team’s 10th secondplace finish. Denver dominated the field with 567.5 points. The Buffs were able to jump fellow Pac-12 team Utah, who finished in third. Montana State had their first ever top-five finish in the Championships after finishing in fourth.

Colorado finished out the four days with 10 of 12 Buffs receiving All-America honors.  The team will have nine of 12 of the competitors at the championships return for next season.  CU hopes to challenge Denver for the title at next year’s championships in New Hampshire.

Olivia Butrymovich

Olivia Butrymovich is the Assistant Sports Editor at the CU Independent. She is a sophomore at CU pursuing degrees in journalism and political science.

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