Stevens: Lobo Skiers Are Underdogs at NCAA Championships
March 4, 2013
NEW MEXICO LOBOS SKIING - AT THE 2013 NCAA SKIING CHAMPIONSHIPS
When/Where : March 6-9 - Middlebury, Vermont
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."
"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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
UNM's 2013 NCAA Championship Roster:
Chris Acosta Alpine SR Ashland, Wisc./MIddle Park HS 4th NCAAs Four-time All-American (2010, 2011, 2012)
Michael Bansmer Alpine SO Central Pointe, Ore./Crater HS 1st NCAAs
Joonas Rasanen Alpine SO Helsinki, Finland/Nilsian Lukio 1st NCAAS
Mateja Robnik Alpine SO Luce, Slovenia/Univ. of Ljublijana 1st NCAAs
Kate Williams Alpine SR Park City, Utah 4th NCAAs All-American (2010)
M.R. Hostetter Alpine SR Steamboat Springs, Colo./Denver 4th NCAAs
Mats Rudin Resaland Nordic SO Kongsberg, Norway/Norges 1st NCAAs
Christian Otto Nordic JR Waltersdorf, Germany/Eliteschule 3rd NCAAs
Sjur Prestsaeter Nordic SO Lillehammer, Norway/Norges 2nd NCAAs All-American (2012)
Anni Nord Nordic SO Tammela, Finlad/Sotkamon Lukio 2nd NCAAs
Linn Håvelsrud Klaesson Nordic SR Oslo, Norway/Lambertseter 3rd NCAAs
Clara Chauvet Nordic SO St. Gervais, France 2nd NCAAs