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Stevens: Underdog Lobo Skiers Could Be NCAA's Top Dogs
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics  
Release:  03/10/2010
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics

March 10, 2010

2010 NCAA National Championships Schedule
Steamboat Springs, Colorado
March 10 - Giant Slalom, Mount Werner - 9 a.m. - Women; 12:30 p.m. - Men
March 11 - Classic, Howelson Hill - 9:30 a.m. - Women's 5K; 11:30 a.m. - Men's 10K
March 12 - Slalom, Howelsen Hill - 5:15 p.m. - Men (second run at 8:15 p.m.); 6:30 p.m. - Women (second run at 9:15 p.m.)
March 13 - Freestyle, Howelsen Hill - 10 a.m. - Men's 20K; 12 p.m. - Women's 15K

By Richard Stevens -- Senior Writer/GoLobos.com

They go into the NCAA Championships a skier short, no longer ranked No. 1 in the nation, but maybe, just maybe, the team to beat.

It just of depends on whether all that blue-ribbon Lobo talent skis like it has skied all season -- or not.

"I think we`re the team with the most top skiers," said Lobo coach Fredrik Landstedt. "We have a lot of skiers who can win races and they are so talented that even if they don`t have their best day, they can still be up there."

There is no question the 2010 Lobos are more than capable of giving the University of New Mexico its second ever NCAA title. The first? Also a skiing crown. These talented Lobos are confident, too.

"Why shouldn't we win it?" said UNM assistant coach Martin Kroisleitner.

No reason. Just hit all the gates cleanly, don`t catch any edges or any colds, and hope that maybe a few of the other big boys on the slopes slip up just a little bit.

"We have skiers who can take fewer risks and still be up there," said Landstedt. "It's a very good situation for us."

The Lobos are at Steamboat Springs, Colo. Wednesday through Saturday with 11 skiers who have qualified for the NCAA meet. Colorado, Denver, Utah and Dartmouth are the only schools to qualify a full, 12-skier squad.

The Lobos have top-notch skiers such as Malin Hemmingsson, who won a 2009 national title and Petter Brenna, who probably should ski down the mountain with a podium on his feet instead of skis. Because that's where Brenna usually ends up standing.

"I don't think there is a better college skier around," said Kroisleitner. "He definitely is our leader on the men's side."

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Said Brenna: "I think we have a chance to win. We have a lot of strong athletes. We'll definitely be up there competing for the top spot. Everybody wants to win and is dedicated to win. It's something we don't' even have to talk about.

"There is some pressure on us, but it's a good pressure. It gives us confidence, knowing that the other teams fear us."

The Lobos owned the No. 1 ranking most of the season, but lost it at the end thanks to good skiing by Colorado and bad luck with a few winter bugs. Colorado has one more skier than UNM and the Buffs are skiing on their home snow. That's an edge that might take some pressure off the Lobos and place it on the broad backs of the Buffaloes.

"There is a little pressure for us, but I think the real pressure is on the University of Colorado," said Landstedt. "They are skiing at home. They won the last time (nationals) were in Steamboat four years ago and they have won the last two meets (this season).

"We're coming a little bit from behind and I think that fits us well."

The Lobos haven't come from behind much this season because they haven't had to. The Lobos have a lot of quality and it runs deep. That's how you win meets. That's how you win NCAA titles. You also need all four teams -- Nordic men/women, alpine men/women -- to perform at peak levels.

The Lobos set a team record with 18 individual wins this season. Brenna, a sophomore and the 2010 RMISA Men's Alpine MVP, owns the Lobo Alpine career-win mark with nine. He set the school season mark with five wins in 2009.

Junior Martin Kaas has won five of eight races this season, tying the UNM season and career records for wins. UNM had five first-team award winners in their conference: Hemmingsson (women's Alpine), Anne Cecile Brusletto (women's Alpine), Polina Ermoshina (women's Nordic), Kaas (men's Nordic), Brenna (men's Alpine) and Thomas Schwab (men's Alpine).

It is this talent that is expected to push the Lobos into the top three at nationals and possibly onto the top spot.

"I think we are more an underdog with a shot at the title rather than a really big favorite," said Kaas. "I think it's a big advantage to come from that position, but we definitely have a shot at the title. Everyone on the team knows we can win it."

Skiing is an individual sport that forms a team total, but these Lobos believe a strength on this year's team is the team's unity.

"What makes our team really strong is that everyone really believes in each other," said coach Kroisleitner. "We have always stepped up for each other. We support each other.

"We have a great chance to win this thing and we are going in with a positive attitude. What makes the difference for us is that even on a bad day, we are still near the top."

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