Stevens: Lobo Skiers Happy To Be Ranked No. 1
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics  
Release:  02/18/2010
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics

Feb. 18, 2010

Nevada Invitational
Friday, Feb. 19
9 a.m. - Women's/Men's giant slalom, North Star
10 a.m. - 5K Women's classic, Auburn Ski Club
11 a.m. - 10K Men's classic, Auburn Ski Club
Saturday, Feb. 20
9:30 a.m. - 20K Men's freestyle, Auburn Ski Club
9:30 a.m. - Men's/Women's slalom, Sugar Bowl
10:30 a.m. - 15K Women's freestyle, Auburn Ski Club
Sunday, Feb. 21 - RMISA Qualifier
9:30 a.m. - Men's/Women's slalom, Sugar Bowl

By Richard Stevens -- Senior Writer/GoLobos.com

It might be fitting if Fredrik Landstedt's Lobos discarded the numbered bibs they wear down the snowy slopes and simply put a big, red bulls-eye on their backs. For these Lobos have become targeted like no other Lobos in 2010 -- everyone else is behind them.

Hey, that's what happens when you are No. 1 and looked upon as the team to beat for a national title.

The Lobo fever regarding rankings and the possibility of making huge noise in the NCAA wars isn't something confined to The Pit and Steve Alford's basketball team. On a ski slope near you -- or maybe not so near -- there is a Lobo team that not only is talking about a national title, but is expecting to grab one.

Which would be the second-ever NCAA crown to be earned by a University of New Mexico program. The first? Well, that's skiing, too. UNM has to go back to 2004 for its last national title. It has to go back forever, after that.

Landstedt's Lobos are the Kansas of men's basketball, the Connecticut of women's basketball, the cat's meow on skis. So, how does this year's version of Lobos on skis stack up to the 2004 national champs?

Landstedt says it's better. "We have better athletes on the team now," said the Lobo coach, who was an assistant on the 2004 team. "We have more winners (first-place skiers). We have more athletes who can win individually at the NCAA Championships."

OK, that's a lot of pressure. You are No. 1 in the nation, favored to win the 2010 NCAA title, and you are better than the Lobo team that won it all in 2004. How are Landstedt's Lobos holding up under this avalanche of expectations.

"It seems to me the kids we have really love it and they want to keep it," Landstedt said of the top ranking. "I think it might motivate other teams to beat us,. I know Denver and Colorado, they hate to be ranked behind us. I think it motivates our kids to do better and it strengthens our team."

To be fair to other D-I programs at UNM, it's a bit easier to be ranked in the Top 10 in skiing than any other sport. There are only 11 other schools with men/women ski teams at the D-I level: Boston College, Colorado, Dartmouth, Denver, Harvard, Montana State-Bozeman, Nevada, New Hampshire, Utah, Vermont and Wisconsin-Green Bay.

The slippery slope with skiing is that it's done down a lot of slippery slopes. A national title can be lost, or won, because of a tumble or a ski edge catching on a nasty patch of white. The Lobos were a half point away from being national runners-up in 2009. The program did come in second in 1992.


2010 Racer Winners

Landstedt, a product of Sweden, said one of his recruiting goals at New Mexico is to lure the American skier to this high desert country to strap on skis for the Lobos. It's a tough sell. There aren't a whole lot of NCAA caliber skiers in America and Landstedt said it's not easy to convince them there is good snow in New Mexico.

He says the No. 1 ranking should help because Americans are familiar with polls, ranking and who's No. 1.

"I think (being No. 1) might help more with the American skiers," said Landstedt."We look at the top Americans first. I'm sure being No. 1 helps (recruit) because it shows all skiers that they can come here and improve.

"We have a littler harder time getting the top Americans to come down here. That's just a reality. So, we'll go out and search anywhere I the world."

Landstedt said the obvious fallback to any schools missing out on the top American skiers is to look at the European talent. There is lots of talent in Europe and not many opportunities for the European skier to go to college and also pursue skiing. New Mexico has a great reputation as a university that makes skiers better while pushing them toward a degree.

"I tell them (European skiers) to look at our results and talk to the athletes who have been here and find out about the place," he said. "A lot of them have the perception that maybe you can't come to New Mexico and be good skiers.

"We have good skiing and good know in New Mexico. This winter is great. We have better skiing than in Colorado this year."

The Lobos have been winning meets this winter with blue-ribbon talent. If there is a weakness on this squad, it's the women's Nordic event. Langstedt says he probably will qualify only two (out of three) Lobos in that event into nationals.

The Lobos are at a meet in Nevada this weekend. They are coming off an impressive win at the Jade Enterprises/New Mexico Invitational in Red River and Taos. UNM was dominant in that meet grabbing six of eight first-place finishes and had 20 top-10 finishes. The six UNM winners were: Martin Kass (2), Petter Brenna (2), Polina Ermoshina and Anne Cecilie Brusletto.

Seven Lobos have been RMISA Skiers of the Week: Malin Hemmingsson, Petter Brenna, Martin Kaas, Polina Ermoshina, Pierre Niess, Anne Cecilie Brusletto and Thomas Schwab.