Stevens: Lobo Ski Team 2012 Season Preview
Jan. 5, 2012
For live timing click here
The Lobo ski team opens Alpine competition for the 2012 season Jan. 7-8 at the Eldora Ski Resort in Boulder, Colo., at the Colorado Invitational. The Alpine team will compete in a Giant Slalom RMISA Qualifier race on Jan. 6 at Eldora Ski Resort as welll. The Lobo Nordic season begins Jan. 13-14 at the Colorado Invitational's Nordic divisions to be held in Steamboat Springs, Colo.
LOBO SKI TEAM 2012 SEASON PREVIEW
By Richard Stevens - Senior Writer/GoLobos.com
Once again, the NCAA podium beckons and teases Fredrik Landstedt's Lobos. Once again, this proud program has the talent to stand in any of the 1-2-3-4 spots on that national stage.
But unlike the last several New Mexico ski teams, this year's thrust at NCAA glory will depend heavily on how a lot of first-year and unknown Lobos handle the challenges of the hills and the season.
Is Landstedt rebuilding in 2012? Yeah, pretty much. But there is a lot of proven talent to go along with a lot of first-year talent and one thing about the New Mexico ski team never changes. The Lobos find the talent to go down and across snowy hills with the best of them.
"On paper, we won't be the No. 1 team," said Landstedt. "There are teams with stronger rosters going into the season. But I feel the team we have can challenge those teams on any day.
"Our goal every year is to compete for the national championship. That's the expectation of our program and of our skiers. We might not start the season with the proven stars that other teams have, but if we work hard as a team, we can be right there at the end."
Of course, it's really the end that counts - the NCAA finals set for March 7-10 in Bozeman, Mont. Until then, the Lobos have some work to do and Landstedt has some coaching to do. He has a young roster that features two seniors in Ingrid Leask, a woman Nordic skier, and Stefanie Demetz in Alpine. And Leask might redshirt the 2012 season.
The UNM roster took some major hits from the talented crew that skied to the No. 4 spot in the 2011 NCAA Championships. Gone is Petter Brenna, the winningest Alpine skier in UNM's history. UNM also is without Nordic stars Martin Kaas (2010 national runner-up) and Tor-Hakon Hellebostad. However, the biggest hit comes on the women's Nordic side where the entire NCAA team from a year ago is gone.
Yep, these Lobos are young and thin in a lot of spots. "But I still think we have a chance to be just as good as last year," said Landstedt.
One major strength of the UNM program, the 2004 national champions, is the reputation of the team. These Lobos have a tradition of success and this program attracts top talent. In 2010 and 2009, the Lobos stood on the NCAA podium as the third-place team. Those Lobos weren't exactly happy with the No. 3 trophy. You can imagine how the Lobos felt last year when they left the 2011 finals with the No. 4 trophy.
"You always want to get the national title, but you also want to leave with a trophy," said Landstedt. "We'll just have to see what happens this year. We maybe have to work extra hard and luck is always a factor in this sport."
The Lobos finished third in the RMISA Championships last year, winning the men's and the overall Alpine titles. Here is a breakdown of the University of New Mexico ski team going into the 2011 season:
Lobo Men's Nordic
As noted, the Lobos lose a mogul of points with the loss of Martin Kaas and Tor-Hakon Hellebostad, who combined to win nine All-American honors as Lobos. Actually, they are the No. 1 (Kaas) and No. 2 most decorated Nordic skiers in Lobo history.
UNM might have lost Kaas on skis, but he returns as a Lobo assistant coach. He has some good skiers to pass on his wisdom to. "Our top three are very good," said Landstedt.
UNM returns Pierre Niess, Christian Otto and Eivind Solberg. Landstedt said there also is a good chance that freshman Sjur Prestseater will contribute during his rookie year at the D-I level. Otto just missed out on All-American status in 2011, finishing 12th in the Nordic classic at the NCAA finals. Otto and Niess need to have solid season both on skis and as leaders. They have the talent and the experience to do both. Niess was a 2010 All-American.
"We won't lose anybody after this year," said Landstedt. "This group is young, but they have a chance to be as good as last year. Pierre, Christian and Eivind have really improved."
The worry spot here is obvious. With only four Nordic skiers listed, UNM has to stay healthy and injury free, especially as the season races down to the March nationals.
Lobo Women's Nordic
One of the strengths last year on this side was quality depth. That might be the case again in 2012, but that's also a major question mark on this year's Lobo team. The women's Nordic roster has two proven skiers and a lot of no-name unknowns. Will those unknowns step up?
"That's kind of the question," said Landstedt. "But we feel we have some really strong skiers."
Landsted lost his entire roster which competed in the 2011 National Championships. Two of those skiers, Sofie Jonsson and Martine Weng, were 2011 All-Americans and Christina Loevald-Hellberg was an All-RMISA skier. There are holes to fill.
The Lobos do return some potential upper-level scoring in Linn Klaesson and Ingrid Leask, but Leask probably will redshirt the 2012 season. "Linn is looking strong and I expect her to be competitive in races for us," said Landstedt. "Now, we have to develop some depth behind them."
Klaesson and Leask will be joined by first-year Lobos Anniken Bratlie, Clara Chauvet, Anita Kirvesniemi and Anni Nord. "There will be some competition within this group which usually pushes everyone to be better," said Landstedt.
The Lobos' Nordic skiers competed as individuals in some preseason races in the West Yellowstone Super Tour. Klaesson finished first among all collegiate skiers in the classical sprint, Kirvesniemi was third and Bratlie was fifth. Nord competed in the freestyle sprint and was second among the collegiate skiers while Chauvet was third.
Lobo Women's Alpine
The Lobo Alpine skiers appear to have star potential in Anne Cecilie Brusletto, but will Brusletto be on skis in 2012?
The talented junior from Oslo, Norway, proved to be a double threat for New Mexico in 2011. She was an All-American in the slalom and an All-American in the giant slalom. She also was a double All-American in 2010.
Brusletto has a chance to leave UNM as the all-time leader in career wins. She begins the season in the No. 3 spot with six Alpine victories to her credit. She had four Alpine wins as a freshman. But an injury to Brusletto makes it a strong possiblity that she might sit out the short ski season and come back in 2013 for her senior year.
If Brusletto stays on Landstedt's bench, the slack will have to be picked up by Demetz and junior Kate Williams. Those two Lobos were All-Americans two seasons ago. Demetz skied to her All-American status in the giant slalom and Williams earned All-American honors in the 2010 slalom. The roster is completed by junior Mary Rachel Hostetter of Steamboat Springs, Colo.
"We have some skiers who should bring us points," said Landstedt. "We have a small group, but you don't want to bring in skiers, if they don't have the ability to compete. If Anne (Brusletto) doesn't ski, having just three skiers leaves us thin, so nothing can happen there. It's a bit scary there."
Lobo Men's Alpine
The Lobos lost a lot of points and wins with Petter Brenna graduating, but there are a lot of talented bodies fighting for spots on the 2012 roster. This unit is deep.
"We have eight skiers," said Landstedt. "That's a lot. That's a big roster and four of the eight are Americans."
It would be nice if a Lobo skier stepped up to fill the snow shoes of Brenna, but that might not be necessary, if UNM's depth proves it can score.
The Lobo Alpine unit returns two All-Americans in Chris Acosta and Armin Triendl. The Lobos also return Juho Pekka Penttinnen, who was an All-RMISA skier in 2010. Landstedt also is excited about first-year Lobo Joonas Rasanen, a freshman from Helsinki, Finland.
"I like this group," said Landstedt. "I think the Alpine men, especially in the slalom, could be as good as anyone in the country."