ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. --- The University of New Mexico ski team has seen done exactly what head coach Fredrik Landstedt wants his team to do...get better every week and peak at the NCAAs. So far so good, and now UNM heads into its final regular season meet, the Jade Enterprises/UNM Invitational at Red River in what should showcase some of the best collegiate skiing in the nation.
Along with New Mexico, Denver, Utah, Colorado, Montana State, Alaska Anchorage, Westminster, and Colorado Mountain will all be on hand. Through the first three meets of the season, the Lobos has finished third twice, and in their last outing, UNM finished second to Denver. The Lobos defeated Utah, a team that finished ahead of them twice earlier in the year, and that's the progress Landstedt is looking for.
"Our goal is to get better every meet and I think we have done that," said Landstedt after the Spencer Nelson Invitational which saw a host of Lobos pick up career marks. "I like where our women's nordic team is at, and the men keep improving."
"We have the ability in the alpine to get great results, and I'm looking forward to this home meet."
On the nordic side, two ladies are leading the pack. At the front is freshmen Eva Severrus, who could be in the running for national freshmen honors as she has five straight podium finishes, including her first collegiate win. If it wasn't for the exploits of Severrus, everyone would be talking about Anni Nord, who already has more top 10 finishes this season (six) then she had in her previous two combined (five). Severrus and Nord have formed one of the more formidable 1-2 punches in women's nordic.
On the men's side, Mats Rudin Resaland has been the anchor with five top-10 finishes, including a second at Montana State, and Aku Nikander has added five top 10s as well as a win at the Pat Miller Invitational. Aljaz Praznik has inmproved as the third finisher each week and should help UNM score solid points in the men's nordic.
Of course, the alpine is the shorter and easier spectator event to watch, and UNM has plenty to see. Mateja Robnik has become a force in the downhill with four top-5 finishes in the giant slalom, culminiating in her title in the RMISA qualifier last week in Colorado. Karoline Mykelbust has struggled with some missed gates, but her go-for-broke style has also resulted in three top-10 finishes and some of the fastest single runs in meets this year.
The unsung hero for the women's alpine could be Sydney Staples, who quietly has put together a superb and steady season with seven top-20 finishes, highlighted by a fourth place finish at the MSU Invitational in the giant slalom.
On the men's side, a missing piece fo the puzzle emerged as 2013 NCAA Slalom National Champion Joonas Rasanen returned and immediate dropped three top-20 finishes in Colorado, including an eighth-place showing in the slalom.
Sean Horner, who had two top-10 finishes in his first two seasons at UNM, had a weekend for the ages with three top-four marks, finishing fourth in the slalom and giant slalom at the Spencer Nelson Invitational in his hometown, and then finishing second in the RMISA qualifier. Michael Bansmer finished right behind, and between those three racers, the always steady Juho-Pekka Penttinen and Armin Triendl, who has five top-10s in five giant slaloms this year, UNM has what it takes to make noise this week, and at the RMISAs and ultimately the NCAAs.
"I really like where we are at right now," said Landstedt. "It should be a great home meet."