Jan. 4, 2005
The 2005 University of New Mexico ski team hits the slopes for the first time on Wednesday, January 5, in the Utah Invitational in Soldier Hollow and Park City, Utah. The Lobos begin their attempt to repeat as national champions after winning UNM's first NCAA Title in 2004.
Every year, the theme for the University of New Mexico ski team outlook was always, "This is the Year." These pages used to be full of reasons why the Lobos would win their first NCAA Championship. After capturing the program's first NCAA crown in 2004, this section is now full of reasons why the Lobos could repeat as national champions in 2005.
These reasons include the return of eight All-Americans from last year's squad, the return of 11 skiers who have competed in at least one NCAA championship and the return of 15 athletes who have qualified for the NCAA's at least once in their careers. George Brooks will have an experienced squad with a lot of talent in his 35th year as New Mexico's head ski coach. He has led UNM to a top-10 finish for the last 21 years, and the 2004 NCAA team title was the first for any sport at the University of New Mexico. However, don't expect Brooks and the rest of the Lobos to be satisfied with just one.
"We got our first one and now we want to add to it," stated Brooks, who holds the longest tenure of any member of the UNM athletics department. "Both the Alpine and Nordic teams are training and working towards a repeat performance."
The Lobos are set for another run at the championship with nine of the 12 NCAA participants from a year ago returning for the upcoming season. New Mexico is picked to finish third in both the 2005 preseason coaches' and ski writers' polls compiled by Ski Racing Magazine. It is a prediction that UNM plans to build on throughout the upcoming season.
Brooks, who directs the Alpine squad, returns four All-Americans to downhill competition from a year ago. The Alpine women are led by senior Helena Woodrow and junior Kathrin Spendier. Both earned All-American honors in 2004 and Spendier is a two-time NCAA participant. They finished ninth and 10th, respectively, in the slalom at last year's championships. Returning letterwinners include juniors Gladys Weidt and Jennifer Shively, both of whom have qualified for the NCAA's in their careers but are yet to participate in the championships. Weidt posted three top-10 finishes last season, while Shively, who was slowed by a hand injury for most of the season, placed seventh in the slalom at the NCAA West Regionals. Newcomers include freshmen Lene Kaasa, Jessica Burns and Staci Rixford, who could all challenge for one of the top-3 spots on the team.
The men's Alpine team is loaded with the return of sophomores Lars Loeseth and Peter Roering. Both were All-Americans last season, and Roering just missed capturing the giant slalom title, finishing second. Loeseth finished in the top-10 in 11 of 12 collegiate races last season, while Roering had 10 top-10's of his own. Also returning are senior Alexander Freberg and sophomore Alex Mach. Mach was an All-Rocky Mountain Intercollegiate Ski Association performer, posting three top-10's in the slalom last year. Freberg competed in the 2003 NCAA Championships and is looking for a return trip during his senior campaign. "Our women's Alpine team is once again very strong," stated Brooks. "We return two very talented All-Americans in Helena and Kathrin, but we need a couple of athletes to step up and help replace Jennifer Delich." Delich was a two-time All-American during her four years at UNM, and she won the 2004 women's giant slalom individual title. "Our men's team will also be near the top in the country," continued Brooks. "Lars and Peter returning gives us two of the best in the NCAA. If one or two of our other athletes on the men's side can perform to their potential, we should be very competitive."
Head Nordic coach Fredrik Landstedt has his cross-country group geared up for another strong showing in 2005. The Lobo women have captured the last two Nordic freestyle titles at the NCAA's and they return two All-Americans in senior Martina Stursova and junior Trine Lundamo. Stursova is a two-time All-American, who won four collegiate races last season. Lundamo scored seven top-10's in 2004, including a third place finish in the classic and a seventh place showing in the freestyle at the 2004 NCAA's. Also returing for 2005 are seniors Pirkko Pulkkanen and Andrea Roberts and junior Janelle Kinner. Roberts qualified for the NCAA's for the first time last season, but did not compete despite posting a pair of top-10's in collegiate competition. Pulkkanen raced in the 2001 and 2002 NCAA Championships, placing 13th in the freestyle as a freshman. Freshman Tiffany Callahan is the lone newcomer to the women's Nordic squad and will add depth to the talented cross-country team.
"Our women's team has been one of the top teams for the last two years and we should be there again this year," stated Landstedt. "With Martina and Trine coming back we have a strong group for the upcoming season. The men are all healthy this season and should be even stronger than they were last year."
New Mexico starts the collegiate ski season at Utah on January 5, 2005. The Lobos will take part in five regular season RMISA events, including the NCAA West Regional at Montana State on February 25-26. The Lobos will once against host their home meet at Taos and Red River, N.M. on February 11-12. This year's NCAA Championships have moved back to the east coast to Stowe, Vt. The University of Vermont will host the NCAA's on March 9-12.
For over three decades the Lobo ski team has been the hunter in the quest for an NCAA title. After bringing home the school's first NCAA Championship trophy in 2004, the Lobos have now become the hunted. The preseason talk of - "Is this the Year?" - is now over. Now the question becomes, "Can we do it again?" The answer still has to be determined on the slopes, but with eight All-Americans returning the Lobos are hoping for a repeat performance.