STEVENS: Lobos Looking at NCAA West Regionals As Tune-up For NCAA Finals
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics  
Release:  02/17/2009
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics

Feb. 17, 2009

Lobo Skiing
NCAA West Regionals/RMISA Championships
Alpine: Feb. 19-20 at Mt. Rose, Reno, Nev.
Nordic: Feb. 20-21 at Auburn Ski Club, Truckee, Calif.
Results: On GoLobos.com
Up Next: NCAA Championships, March 11-14

By Richard Stevens -- Senior Writer/GoLobos.com

In order to win an NCAA Championship in skiing, you need quality depth to earn quality points. That means the more skiers that push off in an event for your team, the better chance you have of earning the big points.

Lobo coach Fredrik Landstedt knows he has 10 Lobos capable of scoring for the University of New Mexico at the NCAA Championships. But he is hoping to take the full allotment of 12 skiers to the March 11-14 NCAA finals.

The Lobos' last chance to qualify two more skiers takes place this week at the NCAA West Regionals/RMISA Championships. Landstedt says a couple of Lobos would have to ski a lot better than they have skied all season in order to make the NCAA roster. "But you never know," said the Lobo coach.

The Lobos' primary goal at the NCAA West Regionals might be to pad that NCAA roster by two, but Landstedt also has another goal. "We want to win regionals," he said.

The Lobos are good enough to do it. Landstedt has seen nine Lobo individuals take the top spot on the podium this season: Petter Brenna (3), Simon Reissmann (2), Estelle Pecherand-Charmet (2), Malin Hemmingsson (1) and Nikolai Herlofson Finne (1).

The UNM women's Alpine team has won four events this season and the men have won one event and finished second five times. The men's Nordic team has finished second twice and third four times. The women's Nordic group has one third place finish in a team event.

But in order to win an NCAA regional -- and an NCAA championship -- you need all four teams to peak and ski well at the same time.

You also need some breaks because things happen when you are traveling across a slippery surface with long contraptions tied to your feet. You catch a tip. You fall down. A binding breaks. You fall down. You hit a bad patch of snow. You fall down. And sometimes, well, you just fall down.

That's one of the reasons the UNM women's Alpine team has been super all season. That roster is loaded.

"The girls team has been great," said assistant coach Martin Kroisleitner, who heads the alpine skiers. "We have five girls who can be top five at all times."

Kroisleitner said that depth is important because of the good-breaks, bad-breaks factor. "In Alpine skiing, a lot of things can happen.," he said. "You always have to take risks to win. If you don't take the risks, there is no way you can win a race. What makes our team so strong that if something goes wrong for one of them, we still have four skiers who can finish up high."

Estelle Pecherand-Charmet has been the star of this group with two wins so far this season to go along with two second-place runs and three third-place finishes. She has established herself as one of the top skiers in the nation.

"Estelle is always up there," said Kroisleitner. "She is always up there and really skiing strong. And her attitude is really professional. She works really hard and her attitude brings the whole team up."

The other four Lobo women who have been skiing well for Kroisleitner are Karin Ohlin, Jacqueline Hangl, Stefanie Demetz and Malin Hemmingsson, who won an NCAA title in 2007.

The men's Alpine group has been paced by super freshman Petter Brenna, who leads the team with three wins. The UNM record for career wins is six.

"I knew when I was recruiting him that he was going to be a really, really strong guy," said Kroisleitner. "But I had no idea how strong he really is. He is very fast and also very, very consistent. Even when he has bad runs, he is still usually on the podium. I don't think there is any better college skier in this country. We're all really happy to have him on the team."

The other two top Alpine men are Thomas Schwab and Herlofson Finne, who also won an event this season. "Speed wise, he's just as fast as Petter," Kroisleitner said of Herlofson Finne. "He's maybe not quite as consistent, but still very consistent. He is very good right now and will be even stronger in the future."

Kroisleitner said Schwab spent the summer through November in the Austrian army and missed a lot of off-season training. "He is not in the shape he was in last year," said Kroisleitner. "But he is catching up and getting better and better by the day. He is capable of being top five in both events."

The Nordic men are led by Simon Reissmann, who has two wins this season. "Simon has been coming through this year," said Landstedt. "He has really shown he can win races and be a top collegiate skier. He has shown that he can out-sprint anybody in a field."

Junior Tor-Hakon Hellebostad has a second-place finish this season and sophomore Martin Kaas has a seventh-place finish. "Martin has been training a lot harder and is in better shape," said Landstedt. "He actually has been our most consistent skier, our steadiest guy scoring. And Tor-Hakon has a chance to win races for us."

The women's Nordic skiers are led by Polina Ermoshina, who has two second-place finishes this season. "Polina is getting better every year and she usually gets better near the NCAAs," said Landstedt.

Ermoshina needs to be joined by another teammate at the NCAA finals and the best bet is Melanie Zemp, who has recorded seven top 20 finishes in eight races this season. Zemp's last chance to qualify is at the regional meet.

Landstedt said even if his Lobos are shorthanded a couple of skiers for the NCAA Championships, they still have a shot at the title, if a lot of Lobos finish high in their events.

"We have a chance," he said. "If you have many skiers on top, you can score a lot of points and make up for having fewer athletes at the championships. Our first goal is to be top four and bring home a trophy. If you can be there (top four), anything can happen."

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.