ANCHORAGE, Alaska - The defending national champion University of Colorado ski team had another solid performance in Nordic competition here Monday, but was still overtaken by rival Utah as the Buffs slipped into second place at the midway point of the Alaska Invitational.
Utah wrestled the lead away from the Buffaloes, assuming the top spot with 470 points after posting six top 12 finishes Monday, including claiming both individual champions. Colorado is 22 points back (448 total), with all six of its scorers in the top 14; the remainder of the field held their positions: Montana State (403), host Alaska (369), Denver (346) and New Mexico (328); Westminster skiers will participate beginning in the alpine events Wednesday.
"It was a reasonably good day," CU Nordic coach Bruce Cranmer said. "You always hope for better when you don't win or go three in the top five, but I thought it was a solid day overall. The conditions were really good, totally fair, there were no waxing issues."
Senior Eliska Hajkova had CU's top finish with a second place effort in the women's 10-kilometer freestyle race, as she was clocked in 29:18.7; that was six seconds off the lead as Utah's Maria Graefnings won in 29:12.7.
"Eliska felt like she started a little slow," Cranmer said. "She was as much as 15 seconds behind Maria (Graefnings) and caught up about half of that time before the end. Most of her 15 seconds were in the first kilometer. I would anticipate a good battle between Maria and Eliska the rest of the season. They were both about 50 seconds ahead of third place. This is just Maria's second race back after spending time in Europe trying to ski herself into World Cups, so you have to think that she's at a really high level. Eliska has confidence against her; she won the race yesterday and was catching up to her time today after a slow start. In a 10K race, eight seconds isn't that much, less than a second per kilometer."
Junior Joanne Reid finished sixth in 30:20.3, with junior Mary Rose the third and final CU scorer placing 14th in 32:14.8. The CU women scored 110 points, four more than in Saturday's classical, but Utah again won as a team with 122. Senior Katie Stege (28th, 34:37.1) and freshman Marianne Madsen (30th, 34:42.5) also raced for the Buff women.
"Joanne had a reasonably good race, she hasn't been 100 percent," Cranmer continued. "She's back from being sick, but is still coming around. Today, she was seventh but only 13 seconds off the podium. Mary had an average race. She's found this niche that we hope she's going to break out of from around 12-15 and see if she can bust into the top 10."
The Buff men placed three in the top 10, once again led by freshman Rune Oedegaard, who claimed third in a 25:40.0 time; Utah's Miles Havlick, a native of Boulder, won in 25:07.3, with Montana State's Davis Norris taking second in 25:15.2. Sophomore Andreas Hoye was eighth in 26:12.5 and junior Ian Mallams finishing 10th in 26:18.6.
Utah won the men's race with 120 points, edging Montana State (119); Colorado was third with 107.
"The guys, with three in the top 10 and four in the top 12, that's a good day," Cranmer said. "Rune said those guys (ahead of him) were going fast today. He's more comfortable, he's a better classic skier and is more comfortable with a mass start instead of interval, but he got another podium, another solid performance.
"Andreas (Hoye) is doing well and Ian was in the hunt, Cranmer added. "Ian was almost our first guy out and so as the times came in, he was winning for quite a while. It's good for him to battle into the top 10 after missing the fall training."
Senior Reid Pletcher placed 12th (26:31.3) and freshman Arnaud DePasquier was 18th (27:13.1) to round out the CU men's efforts.
"Reid is bouncing around a little, you never know when he's 100 percent or where he's at. I think he's having some random good results but some random mediocre results, at least for him. The further out he gets (from his accident last April), the better off he will be. He's not completely confident yet, and we've seen that in the past from him, but he's progressing.
The Buffs are competing here without one of their top men's cross country performers, as senior Vegard Kjoelhamar remained in Boulder due to illness that typically affects Nordic skiers this time of year.
Cranmer noted that CU's game plan isn't to solely focus on the Thursday or Friday races. "We'll do some training tomorrow and keep the volume up. We don't want to peak yet, we want to keep the lid on super top performances and save them for later in the season. We'll keep training through this period, there's still a month left until the end of the year. No one wants to be at 100 percent right now. Some volume training keeps that under control. We'll focus on both training and racing, but not overtraining."
The Alaska Invitational resumes on Wednesday with the giant slalom races; it will conclude Friday with the slalom competition; a second meet in Anchorage, the Seawolf Invitational, begins Thursday with Nordic competition (freestyle) and the giant slalom.
Alaska Invitational (4 events)- 1. Utah 470; 2. Colorado 448; 3. Montana State 403; 4. Alaska 369; 5. Denver 346; 6. New Mexico 328.
Men's 10K Freestyle (28 collegiate finishers)- 1. Miles Havlick, Utah, 25:07.3; 2. David Norris, MSU, 25:15.2; 3. Rune Oedegaard, CU, 25:40.0; 4. Andrew Dougherty, DU, 26:04.1; 5. Tom Smith, Utah, 26:07.3; 6. Tyler Reinking, MSU, 26:07.9; 7. Michael Schallinger, MSU, 26:11.4; 8. Andreas Hoye, CU, 26:12.5; 9. Rolf Figi, Utah, 26:14.3; 10. Ian Mallams, CU, 26:18.6. Other CU Finishers: 12. Reid Pletcher, 26:31.3; 18. Arnaud De Pasquier, 27:13.1.
Women's 10K Freestyle (39 collegiate finishers)- 1. Maria Graefnings, Utah, 29:12.7; 2. Eliska Hajkova, CU, 29:18.7; 3. Rose Kemp, Utah, 30:07.2; 4. Jaime Bronga, UAA, 30:15.6; 5. Linn Klaesson, UNM, 30:19.6; 6. Joanne Reid, CU, 30:20.3; 7. Clara Chauvet, UNM, 30:24.5; 8. Steffi Hiemer, UAA, 30:52.5; 9. Laura Rombach, UAA, 30:55.3; 10. Ase Carlson, MSU, 31:14.8. Other CU Finishers: 14. Mary Rose, 32:14.8; 28. Katie Stege, 34:37.1; 30. Marianne Madsen, 34:42.2.