RED RIVER, N.M. ---The Lobos got three more podium finishes on Saturday afternoon on a resplendent Saturday afternoon at Red River, and that keyed the way for a runaway UNM win in the Jade Enterprises/Lobo Invitational, the squad’s first meet win since 2011. The win puts UNM in solid position as the squad heads to the postseason with the RMISA/NCAA West Regionals starting on February 21 in Minturn and Beaver Creek, Colorado.
The Lobos scored 655 points, easily outdistancing second place Colorado, which finished with 588.5 points. Denver was third at 574.5 and Utah was fourth at 550 points. UNM ran away with the meet after winning both slaloms on Saturday as well as the women’s 10K freestyle and coming in second in the men’s 10K freestyle.
Head coach Fredrik Landstedt was pleased with the results which saw UNM get solid marks and great finishes all across the board. “I’m very proud of the team. They showed strong today and they wanted to win the home meet and prove to everyone else, and themselves, they can be contenders at the NCAAs.”
Not only do the Lobos look like contenders … they look like dangerous contenders. The Lobos defeated Colorado, Utah and Denver, the top three teams at the National Championships last season. The Lobo ended Denver’s two-meet winning streak. It was New Mexico’s first meet win since the 2011 Jade Enterprises/UNM Invitational.
The Nordic squad got the Lobos off on the right foot Saturday morning as the men’s squad picked up three top-10 finishes in the 10K freestyle. Mats Resaland was his usual steady self with a fourth place showing at 30:11.0 and Aku Nikander had his seventh top-10 finish of the year, coming in eighth with a time of 30:24.8. The squad got a lift from Aljaz Praznik, who skied his best race of the season, finishing a career-best sixth place with a time of 30:20.0. With the race not a mass start, Praznik’s breakneck pace at the finish, which included a tremendous final push got him sixth by two seconds over Utah’s Oscar Ivars.
“The whole alpine team really did well. Anni had her best race of the year and it was very strong because she broke into that top three, which has been the same three women for most of the year.”
Thirty minutes later, the women’s race began, and the Lobo women again picked up another podium finish, but not from the usual source. Eva Severrus entered with six straight podiums to her credit, but she finished fourth. Teammate Anni Nord, who has put together a brilliant junior season, earned her first podium, edging out her teammate for third place. Nord finished at 35:26.0 and now has eight top-10 finishes in eight races this season. Severrus was solid in finishing fourth with a time of 35:39.3, and he final push allowed her to nip Colorado’s Camilla Brautaset. Andrea Lee came in 16th for the final points for the Lobos.
Landstedt added, “It should give her confidence, and the same with Aljaz. He showed he can ski with the pack. Mats showed he can be up there as well. I’m really looking for him to be more consistent.”
With good marks in the morning, it was up to the alpine squad to maintain the lead, and they did so in spades. Joonas Rasanen, the NCAA champion in the slalom, picked up his second career victory with a combined time of 1:33.70, winning by 0.28 seconds over Utah’s Mark Engel. Joonas was in eighth after his first run, but he blistered the course in just 45.92, easily the fastest time of the day, to catapult himself into the win.
“For Joonas that was awesome to be able to show something like that in the college races,” said Landstedt. “Joonas is a guy we are looking at to go to the NCAAs and be a contender again.”
Juho-Pekka Penttinen, winner in the slalom yesterday, finished seventh and Sean Horner, who finished second yesterday in the slalom, was ninth, giving the Lobos three top-10s again.
In the women’s slalom, Karoline Mykelbust and Meteja Robnik flip-flopped their finishes from Friday, with Mykelbust earning her first career podium finish with a third-place run, and Robnik fourth. Robnik was third and Mykelbust fourth in the slalom yesterday. Courtney Altringer bounced back from a 15th place showing yesterday to garner 10th as UNM got three more top-10 finishes.
Said Landstedt of the win, “It feels good to beat the three teams (Denver, Colorado and Utah) that led the NCAAs last year. We are looking forward to good things in the postseason.”