Midway, Utah --- After an eventful fall season, including a Gold Medal at the World University Games by Joonas Rasanen, the University of New Mexico Ski Team begins its competitive collegiate season this weekend at the U.S. Nationals/UtahPat Miller Invitational.
The squad will compete in sort of a race within a race, as the U.S. Nationals and the Pat Miller Invitational will be conducted simultaneously.
The Nordic schedule, which will take place at Soldier Hollow, is as follows:
Nordic Schedule (Soldier Hollow)
Jan. 4: 10k/15k classic. Women begin at 10:00 a.m.; men at 12:00 p.m. Interval start.
Jan. 5: 30k/20k free. Men begin at 10:00 a.m.; women following completion of men's race. Mass start.
Jan. 4: Men's GS/women's SL.
"It's time for another Championship," Landstedt said. "We have the right combination of athletes and we are definitely in the mix this year."
New Mexico returns 12 letterwinners from last year's squad that had one third-place finish and four fourth-place finishes in Rocky Mountain Intercollegiate Ski Association competitions.
The Lobos finished sixth at the NCAA Championships and had an individual national champion in Joonas Rasanen (slalom) and a national runner-up in Mats Rudin Resaland (classic) hosted by Middlebury College in Middlebury, Vt. -- the team's 30th-consecutive top-10 finish at nationals. Six Lobos brought home All-America honors: Chris Acosta (First Team GS, Second Team SL), Rasanen (First Team SL), Mateja Robnik (Second Team SL) and Resaland (First Team CL, Second Team FS).
Rasanen, Robnik and Resaland are the top returners from last year while Armin Triendl returns fully recovered from a redshirt season forced by ACL tear suffered at the beginning of last season.
"In these four we have skiers that are used to winning and they will pull everyone else on the team closer to the top," Landstedt said. "It's great to have these types of athletes on the team and they benefit everyone else who trains with them daily, knowing they've won races. It's huge.
"Having them back also helps everyone focus and it takes some pressure off when you know that you have top skiers on all four parts of the team."
The Lobos welcome nine newcomers: four alpiners in Scott Snow, Taylor Grauer, Karoline Søvik Myklebust and Sydney Staples, and five Nordics in Caleb Krueger, Aku Nikander, Aljaz Praznik, Anna Daudert and Andrea Lee.
"The new athletes on the team will definitely make an impact this winter," Landstedt said. "On the alpine side we are adding both depth and a few athletes that will be at the NCAAs in March. The men’s alpine squad will be a top team this winter again. On the women’s alpine side, we finally have some depth and we also believe we have added a few skiers that can be placing close to the top. Having five alpine women for the first time in a few years will make our team stronger.
"On the Nordic side we have a very different team with only Mats Resaland, Christian Otto, and Anni Nord left from last year’s NCAA squad. Our most improved team will most likely be the men’s Nordic team where we are hoping that a couple of the new comers will challenge Mats and Christian."
Richard Stevens contributed to this preview.