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STEVENS: Petter Brenna Came To UNM for Both Books and Bindings
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics  
Release:  03/09/2009
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics

March 9, 2009

Lobo Skiing
Up Next:
Lobos at NCAA Championships
When/Where: March 11-14, Bethel/Rumford, Maine

By Richard Stevens -- Senior Writer/GoLobos.com

The New Mexico Lobos almost landed a recruit of Petter Brenna's status once. He was a basketball player named Mose Malone. Big Moses decided to go NBA instead of go to college.

If the name Mose Malone pre-dates you, there are other ways to understand the quality of athlete Lobo coach Fredrik Landstedt snagged when he convinced Brenna to leave the ski slopes of Europe and try his hand, er, feet, on the slippery slopes of U.S. college skiing.

It would be like landing a Sam Bradford (Oklahoma) or Tim Tebow (Florida) in football. Or maybe a Kevin Durant (Texas) or J.J. Redick (Duke) in basketball. In golf, it might be like landing a Tiger Woods (Stanford). OK, Woods might be pushing it a bit, but you get the picture. Brenna is a program changer, cream of the cream.

"We knew he would be one of our better skiers ever," said Landstedt. "And the way it looks, he might be the best ever."

It's possible that Brenna might be the best recruit ever to sign for UNM in any sport. Possible. This guy could have gone to any program in the country. Not too many Lobos can say that.

Brenna is proving in his freshman year at UNM that he might be the best Alpine (downhill) skier in the nation. The UNM career mark for Alpine wins is six. Brenna has five this season heading into this week's NCAA National Championships in Maine.

He picked up wins No. 4 and No. 5 at the NCAA Regionals (Feb. 19-20) in the slalom and giant slalom, helping the Lobos win their first NCAA Regional and league titles in 16 years. The five wins tied a UNM season mark.

And what are the odds of Brenna coming back from Maine as a national champion? "Pretty good," said Landstedt. "He should be up there. He is winning so much because he not only is getting down the mountain almost every time, but he is getting down fast."

In Alpine skiing, there is a gamble factor involved. The skiers that push off know that in order to win a race, you have to go all out with reckless abandon. The cautious, the careful, do not win. Most of the racers don't make it at that reckless pace, but the winner does. Usually, it's not the same skier because the odds are that most of the time you will fall or miss a gate.

Not Brenna. He mostly finishes. He mostly finishes fast. "He is an incredible athlete," said Landstedt. "It's hard to get someone like him, because he is so good."

So, how did this incredible athlete, this program changer, decide to leave the slopes of Europe and come to New Mexico to be a Lobo?

In a way, it was simply maturity. Brenna is a 22-year-old freshman. He knows that some day the skiing legs won't be there, but the mind and the education will be.

But Brenna also knew that a nicely groomed ski slope is a terrible thing to waste. So, he sought out the best of both worlds, a world that would provide both books and bindings.

"My biggest dream is still skiing," said the native of Baerum, Norway. "I would like to ski Vancouver (Olympics) in 2010. But I decided it was time for an education. Coming over here (UNM), I can get a degree and still do the skiing.

"I feel lucky. Most of the people I know back home were at school with not much skiing and nothing but school. That didn't seem too interesting. That is why I like my situation here."

Said Landstedt: "We got lucky because he had decided it was time to get his education and we were there (recruiting him)."

Brenna wasn't exactly a ski bum in Europe during the three years between high school and UNM, but, in a way, he was. He was traveling with the Norway National Team going from slope to slope and from country to country.

"I traveled non-stop from August until the end of June. Then I had July off," he said. "Alpine skiing probably has more traveling days than any sport in the world."

Since Brenna already was a traveling man, New Mexico and the U.S. didn't seem like too much of a stretch, or a trip. "I'm pretty much used to not being at home, so that's no problem," he said. "And I have a good team around me and good teammates.

"I think New Mexico is really a good place to be. I like the laid-back attitude. I think New Mexicans are more friendly and much nicer (than a lot of Europeans)."

There is no question Brenna's performance in Maine is key to UNM grabbing the 2009 NCAA title. The Lobos qualified 10 skiers to the NCAA finals and there are four programs that qualified the maximum 12 skiers -- Alaska Anchorage, Dartmouth, Denver and Utah. Colorado will have 11 skiers in Maine.

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"I think New Mexico is really a good place to be. I like the laid-back attitude. I think New Mexicans are more friendly and much nicer (than a lot of Europeans)."
Lobo freshman Petter Brenna
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The Lobos are in a small hole. The Lobos need Brenna and maybe a few other Lobos to lock down some first-place points.

The Lobo ski team is the only UNM program to ever win an NCAA title and also has produced the most NCAA individual champions. Brenna has a good chance to become a national champion. If not this year, maybe 2010, 2011 or 2012. You also can expect the UNM career mark to come to Brenna.

"Of course, it would be cool to do that (career wins), but it doesn't matter that much except that I know I need to keep winning to help us at the NCAAs," said Brenna. "In Europe (ski circuit), you are just there by yourself, individually. But I'm definitely a Lobo and into that team spirit, cheering for your teammates.

"I'm a hard worker and I know I'm a good skier and I have a chance (to be an NCAA champion). But in Alpine skiing, you can't expect anything."

Maybe, but when Brenna straps on the skis for the Lobos, you can't help but expect at least two things: That he will finish. That he will finish fast.

Editor's Note: Richard Stevens is a former Associate Sports Editor and sports columnist for The Albuquerque Tribune. You can reach him at rstevens50@comcast.net. Previous articles are available at The Richard Stevens Corner

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