Stevens: Lobo Skiers Are Underdogs at NCAA Championships
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics  
Release:  03/04/2013
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics

March 4, 2013

2013 NCAA Skiing Championships Information Central / 2013 NCAA Skiing Digital Program
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When/Where : March 6-9 - Middlebury, Vermont
Lobos Competing: Chris Acosta, Michael Bansmer, Joonas Rasanen, Mateja Robnik, Kate Williams, Mary Rachel Hostetter, Mats Rudin Resaland, Christian Otto, Sjur Prestsaeter, Anni Nord, Linn Håvelsrud Klaesson, Clara Chauvet

By Richard Stevens - Senior Writer/GoLobos.com

When the Beast from the East clashes with the Best of the West, will the growl of a New Mexico underdog even be heard?

The Lobos think so.

"I expect the team to be up there fighting," said Lobo Nordic skier, Mats Rudin Resaland. "I think we have a good shot for the podium and also the title."

For sure, the Lobos will be an underdog at the 2013 NCAA Skiing Championships to be held Wednesday thru Saturday in the white hills near Middlebury, Vt. Colorado, the Best of the West, and Vermont, the Beast from the East, have avalanched their competition all winter and are expected to be in a two-team dual for the title.

But there are patches of ice and exceptional performances beckoning to each competitor. The Lobos are shooting for exceptional and that is likely what they'll need in order to climb onto the team podium that has room for only four teams.

"I'm always going for a top four. I like us to bring home a trophy," said Lobo Coach Fredrik Landstedt. "I don't think we are a favorite by any means. I don't think any other team is looking at us as being a contender. So, we hope to surprise them.

"It can be a little bit more relaxing (not being a favorite). The fact that the other teams aren't really looking at you makes you really want to show them something and really perform well when it matters."

This definitely is when it matters. There are 74 men and 74 women scheduled to hit the slopes in Alpine and Nordic events. Colorado had dominated the West and comes in as the NCAA West champion/RMISA champion. Vermont has ruled the Northeast and comes to the NCAAs with its third consecutive EISA title (NCAA East).

Dartmouth is the No. 2 team in the East followed by New Hampshire. Denver came in second in the NCAA West region followed by Utah. UNM finished fourth. The top four spots on the podium should be filled by one of these seven teams with Montana State and Alaska-Anchorage as long shots. A team from the RMISA has won 15 of the past 17 national titles.

It is expected that Colorado and Vermont will be on the podium. Who will grab the other two spots?

A team can only advance 12 skiers - six Alpine, six Nordic -- to the NCAA finals. The Lobos join Vermont, Colorado, Denver, Alaska-Anchorage, Utah and Montana State with the full contingent of skiers. Dartmouth and New Hampshire have 11 skiers at the finals which puts them at a disadvantage.

"It's the last race and it's bigger and more important than all the other races and you really want to ski well," said Lobo Nordic skier, Linn Håvelsrud Klaesson. "There is more pressure because everyone wants to win, but at the same time, it's important to stay relaxed."

The Lobos' strength in 2013 comes from the Alpine races (downhill) while there has been inconsistency in the UNM Nordic (cross country) sides.

"We had a hard time coming together as a team at the same time," said Landstedt. "There were a lot of good individual performances. On the Nordic side, we seldom had all three top men and all three top women competing on the same weekend. That made it tough to get a lot of points for the team.

"Overall, the Alpine team performed very well and hopefully we get together for NCAAs."

To win a national title, you have to have strong individual performances and you need additional points from quality depth. The Lobos have quality and depth on the Alpine sides.

The UNM Alpine men have three wins from Joonas Rasanen and two more from senior Chris Acosta. Acosta was second at the 2013 NCAA West Regionals (also the RMISA Championships) in the slalom. He has five top-five finishes this season.

"I feel like I'm skiing like I should and I feel like I can carry that momentum right into the NCAA Championships," said Acosta. "It's a really special race. It's something different. It means more and you have to perform. I think that's why it's so special because there is a lot of pressure and when you overcome that it feels really good.

"It's a great race to be at. It's a one-time deal and a make-it or break-it thing."

Clara Chauvet

At the NCAA West meet, UNM came in second in Alpine as a team and also second in the men's and women's standings. The Lobos have three solid women Alpine skiers in Mateja Robnik, Kate Williams and Mary Rachel Hostetter.

"We are ramping up," said Williams, a senior, who has five top-five finishes in 2013. "We are strong in slalom right now. We really feel confident. Each skier on the team is good enough to be top three or winning races.

"It's my last (NCAA meet) and we're looking forward to a good strong finish. It's the last hurrah. There will be nerves, for sure, but you have to stay calm and when you do that, you let the best come out."

The UNM Nordic group finished last as a team and in both the men's and women's division at the NCAA West/RMISA Championships. If UNM plans to step up onto the podium, this group needs to step up on the snow.

"I want to do better than we have done in my other years since this is my last year," said Klaesson. "I think we can do better if we have a good day. We want to be on the podium. I really want to be Top Ten.

"It's different because all the teams are taking just the best skiers, so the level is higher. That's more fun."

Said Resaland: "We have been preparing (for NCAAs) the whole season. It's kind of been that every event has been some sort of training for us. We knew that the most important races would come at the end of the season "

Editor's Note: Richard Stevens is a former award-winning Sports Columnist and Associate Sports Editor at The Albuquerque Tribune. You can reach him at rstevens50@comcast.net.

UNM's 2013 NCAA Championship Roster:

Chris Acosta • Alpine • SR • Ashland, Wisc./MIddle Park HS • 4th NCAAs • Four-time All-American (2010, 2011, 2012)
Has two first-place and five top-five finishes in 2013...won the giant slalom and was the runner-up in the slalom at the 2013 RMISA Championships/NCAA West Regionals, Feb. 22-24...four-time All-American: 2010 (8th in SL), 2011 (5th in GS) and 2012 (10th in GS and 3rd in SL)...if he earns All-America honors, he'll be the third Lobo men's Alpiner in school history to earn national honors all four years of his collegiate career, joining the likes of Lars Loseth (2004-07) and Oeyvind Larsen (1990-93)

Chris Acosta

Michael Bansmer • Alpine • SO • Central Pointe, Ore./Crater HS • 1st NCAAs
Has placed as high as second in 2013 in the giant slalom at the CU Invite on Jan. 8...has three top-5 finishes...finished seventh in the giant slalom and fourth in the slalom at the 2013 RMISA Championships/NCAA West Regionals

Joonas Rasanen • Alpine • SO • Helsinki, Finland/Nilsian Lukio • 1st NCAAS
Has three victories and four top-five finishes in 2013...won the slalom at the CU Spencer Nelson Invite, the DU Invite and UNM Invite...ranks tied for fourth in UNM history for most men's alpine wins in a single season and is tied for first for most slalom wins in a single-season

Mateja Robnik • Alpine • SO • Luce, Slovenia/Univ. of Ljublijana • 1st NCAAs
Has led the Lobos and placed 14th or better in all eight RMISA events she's competed in...recorded career-best 3rd-place finishes in the giant slalom and slalom at the 2013 RMISA Championships/NCAA West Regionals...transferred to UNM at the semester break from University of Ljublijana in Maribor, Slovenia

Kate Williams • Alpine • SR • Park City, Utah • 4th NCAAs • All-American (2010)
Has three top-five finishes in 2013, including a season-best fourth place in the giant slalom at the RMISA Qualifier...finished fifth and 11th in the SL and GS at the 2013 RMISA Championships/NCAA West Regionals...second team All-America in 2010 (9th in SL)

Mary Rachel Hostetter

M.R. Hostetter • Alpine • SR • Steamboat Springs, Colo./Denver • 4th NCAAs
Has four top-10 finishes in the slalom this season...placed a career-best third place in the SL at the CU Invite...finished 18th and 12th in the GS and SL, respectively, at the 2013 RMISA Championships/NCAA West Regionals...30th in GS and 20 in SL at 2012 NCAAs...skied for Denver at the 2010 and 2011 NCAAs

Mats Rudin Resaland • Nordic • SO • Kongsberg, Norway/Norges • 1st NCAAs
Has led the Lobos in every RMISA event in 2013 and placed in the top-10 in all regular-season races...finished 13th and sixth in the classical and freestyle races at the 2013 RMISA Championships/NCAA West Regionals...placed as high as second in the CL at UNM's Invite

Christian Otto • Nordic • JR • Waltersdorf, Germany/Eliteschule • 3rd NCAAs
Has six top-20 finishes in 2013...season-best 14th in the freestyle at the Utah Invite...finished 19th and 22nd in the CL and FS at 2013 RMISA Championships/NCAA West Regionals..placed 28th in CL and FS at 2012 NCAAs...finished 12th in CL and 30th in FS at 2011 NCAAs

Sjur Prestsaeter • Nordic • SO • Lillehammer, Norway/Norges • 2nd NCAAs • All-American (2012)
Has placed as high as 23rd in the classical in 2013...has battled a lingering sickness all season but feels good heading into NCAAs...placed as high as sixth in 2012...second-team All-America (10th in CL) at 2012 NCAAs

Anni Nord • Nordic • SO • Tammela, Finlad/Sotkamon Lukio • 2nd NCAAs
Has led the Lobos three times this season, including tying her career-best with a fourth-place finish in the classical at the UNM Invite...was sick and missed 2013 RMISA Championships/NCAA West Regionals...16th and 28th in the FS and CL at the 2012 NCAAs

Linn Håvelsrud Klaesson • Nordic • SR • Oslo, Norway/Lambertseter • 3rd NCAAs
Has led the Lobos five times and placed in the top-20 nine times in 2013...placed a season-best fourth in the freestyle at the CU Invite...placed 11th in the CL and 24th in FS at 2012 NCAAs...finished 23rd in FS and 33rd in CL at 2010 NCAAs

Clara Chauvet • Nordic • SO • St. Gervais, France • 2nd NCAAs
Has led the Lobos twice and placed in the top-10 four times in 2013...is strongest in the freestyle...placed 25th in the CL and 11th in the FS at the 2013 RMISA Championships/NCAA West Regionals...finished 21st in the CL and 12th in the FS at 2012 NCAAs