New Mexico Lobos Skiing – at the 2014 NCAA Skiing Championships
When/Where: March 5-8 – Park City, Utah (Alpine); Midway Utah (Nordic)
Lobo Alpine Qualifiers: Sean Horner, Joonas Rasanen, Armin Triendl; Courtney Altringer, Karoline Myklebust, Mateja Robnik;
Lobo Nordic Qualifiers: Aku Nikander, Aljaz Praznik, Mats Resaland; Andrea Lee, Anni Nord, Eva Severrus.
Live Webcast: http://www.ncaa.com/liveschedule
By Richard Stevens – Senior Writer/GoLobos.com
In evaluating the podium for the 2014 NCAA Skiing Championships, you might expect New Mexico Coach Fredrik Landstedt to favor the Best of the West or maybe the Beast from The East.
Always, the Rocky Mountain champion and the Eastern champion produce the teams to beat. Since the sport went NCAA in 1954, only Denver, Dartmouth, Wyoming, Colorado, Vermont, Utah and New Mexico (2004) have won national titles. Since 1967, those teams also have provided the NCAA runner-up.
Vermont, the bully from Burlington, gets a favorable nod from the UNM coach. The Catamounts ride onto the NCAA slopes off their fourth consecutive Eastern Intercollegiate Ski Association (EISA) Championship. They finished the EISA circuit undefeated. They won five of six slalom races and had 12 skiers on the EISA First Team.
Vermont’s Kate Ryley went undefeated in the giant slalom this season and won two slalom races. Catamount Anja Gruber is the defending NCAA champ in the Nordic classic race.
However, when he turns his thoughts to the West, Landstedt doesn’t give the nod to Utah or Colorado, which battled neck and neck for the Rocky Mountain Intercollegiate Ski Association (RMISA) Championships. Landstedt likes Denver, which finished fourth at the RMISA run behind his Lobos.
Denver is a team of talent and tradition. The Pioneers will be chasing their 22nd national title and was hurt in the RMISA meet with two skiers off competing in the Olympics. Those two skiers had combined for 10 podium spots during the regular season. Those potential points are back for the NCAA run and Landstedt says that makes Denver a powerful squad.
“I think Denver and Vermont will be the favorites,” said Landstedt. “But there are six teams that could win it. We could win it or finish sixth, but you could say that about anybody.
“It doesn’t take much from being at the top to finishing sixth.”
Sometimes all it takes is a fall or for a skier to miss a gate – or not fall or miss a gate.
“In Alpine, you always have the factor of a skier falling out and not finishing,” said Landstedt. “Your best Alpine skier can win a race or maybe not score at all.”
Scoring can be a slippery slope in skiing for an obvious reason. You are competing on a slippery slope. The slopes in use for the 2014 Championships are at the Park City Mountain Resort in Park City, Utah (Alpine) and the Soldier Hollow Resort in Midway, Utah.
Colorado is the defending national champions. The Buffaloes staged the largest final-day rally in the history of the sport to grab the 2013 title. It was Colorado’s 25th national title. Vermont had led three out of four days and held a commanding 54-point lead heading into the final day in 2013.
Vermont skied poorly on the last day. Colorado skied well.
“Utah might have a little advantage being more familiar with the area,” said Landstedt. “But it again will come down to who skis well all four days.
Another key factor for the NCAA win is qualifying a full roster of 12 skiers.
New Mexico, Alaska-Anchorage, Denver, Colorado, Dartmouth, Utah, Montana State and Vermont all qualified 12 athletes. That’s three in men’s Alpine, three in women’s Alpine, three in men’s Nordic and three in women’s Nordic.
New Hampshire is a solid team, but only has 10 skiers going to Utah. Already, New Hampshire, which has never had a top-two finish, has lost potential points. No other team in the 23-team field has more than six athletes. Really, this is a six-team race.
“We have a good shot,” said Landstedt. “It will be very tight between the top six teams. We need our top skiers to be up there and climb onto the podiums. We might not have the depth as some teams, so we need some individuals to finish high.”
The Lobos will take four skiers to Utah who have won races in 2013-14: Joonas Rasanen, Mateja Robnik, Aku Nikander and Eva Severrus.
Severrus has two wins and eight finishes in the top three. She was First Team All-RMISA. She finished the season with nine straight finishes of fourth place or better and made the podium eight times.
“She has been a great skier for us,” said Landstedt of Severrus. “She won regional and we are looking at her to do really well.”
Rasanen is the 2013 NCAA slalom champion and also was First Team All-RMISA. He was second in the slalom at the RMISA Championships. First Team selection Karoline Myklebust finished the season with three straight podium spots including two at the RMISA meet.
Nikander had a win at the Pat Miller Invitational. Robnik had ten top-ten finishes and a win at a RMISA giant slalom qualifier in Colorado. Sean Horner had eight top-10 finishes, one second-place finish, and was the RMISA Alpine MVP for 2013-14.
The Lobos will bring some talent to the NCAA races. New Mexico had nine skiers named to the All-Rocky Mountain Intercollegiate Ski Association team. Denver and Utah had 10 each on the all-conference team.
Denver had the most First Team selections with eight and UNM’s Landstedt recognizes Denver’s potential for podium points in Utah. Denver’s Kristine Haugen is a two-time defending national champ in the slalom races. Pioneer Espen Lysdahl, who missed the RMISA meet, is the defending NCAA champ in the slalom.
Landstedt also expects several Lobos to climb the podiums.
“At NCAAs, everybody has to fire at the right time and the same time,” said Landstedt. “That’s what it takes. It takes everybody.”