ANCHORAGE, Alaska — The defending national champion University of Colorado ski team, with a win in women’s Nordic competition and three top six finishes on the men’s side, took the early lead after two events in the Alaska Invitational here Saturday.

There may not be a Colorado-Utah rivalry yet in the Pac-12 Conference, but it’s heated up in skiing this year, as Utah edged the Buffs in the first two meets and the two are dueling here after the classical races.  The Buffaloes have 231 points with the Utes on their heels with 228; Montana State (208), Alaska (187), Denver (171) and New Mexico (157) round out the field.

Senior Eliska Hajkova easily won the women’s 5-kilometer classical race in 16:34.7, a 10-plus second win over Utah’s Maria Graefnings.  It was the fifth win of her career.  The Buffs’ next finisher was junior Joanne Reid, who captured 11th in 17:31.3, with junior Mary Rose placing 13th (17:54.4) as CU’s third scorer; the Buff women scored 106 points, third as a team behind Utah (125) and host Alaska-Anchorage (107).

The Buff men placed three in the top six, led by freshman Rune Oedegaard’s runner-up time of 14:08.0, which was just 1.7 seconds behind Montana State’s Davis Norris, who won in 14:06.3.  Senior Reid Pletcher was fourth in 14:33.4 and sophomore Andreas Hoye sixth in 14:36.9.

The CU men scored 125 points with the 2-4-6 finish, despite being without the services of senior Vegard Kjoelhamar, who remained in Boulder due to illness that typically affects Nordic skiers this time of year.  Montana State’s men scored 115, with Utah third (104).

Junior Ian Mallams (16th, 15:00.0) and freshman Arnaud DePasquier (21st, 15:24.8) rounded out the Colorado men’s performances, while freshman Marianne Madsen (21st, 18:20.5) and senior Katie Stege (31st, 19:16.9) completed the CU women’s effort.

“It was nice to have that kind of day,” CU Nordic coach Bruce Cranmer said.  “You always like to have the double win, but we were so close with Rune less than two seconds out.   It was a pretty good day for the most part, especially since we’re missing Vegard.  We had a lot of fresh snow here, probably about a foot’s worth, but the skiing today was perfect, it couldn’t have been better.  

“Eliska looked good, said she felt great and her skis were good,” he continued.  “When she has that kind of confidence in her skis, she races with a lot of power and that’s what happened today.  She was a little bit behind, maybe three seconds, at the halfway point so she made that up and then added another 10 seconds or so over the last 2K.  She looked really good, was strong, and it is a great confidence boost for her.”

The Alaska Invitational resumes on Monday with the 10-kilometer freestyle races in both genders.  The Buffs will remain in Alaska for the Seawolf Invitational later in the week (Thursday and Friday).

Alaska Invitational (2 events)— 1. Colorado 231;  2. Utah 228;  3. Montana State 208;  4. Alaska 187;  5. Denver 171;  6. New Mexico 157.

Men’s 5K Classical (29 collegiate finishers)— 1. David Norris, MSU, 14:06.3;  2. Rune Oedegaard, CU, 14:08.0;  3. Miles Havlick, Utah, 14:08.8;  4. Reid Pletcher, CU, 14:33.4;  5. Andrew Dougherty, DU, 14:35.0;  6. Andreas Hoye, CU, 14:36.9;  7. Michael Schallinger, MSU, 14:37.4;  8. Lukas Ebner, UAA, 14:37.9;  9. Tom Smith, Utah, 14:39.0;  10. Sawyer Kesselheim, MSU, 14:41.1.  Other CU Finishers: 16. Ian Mallams, 15:00.0;  21. Arnaud De Pasquier, 15:24.8.  

Women’s 5K Classical (31 collegiate finishers)— 1. Eliska Hajkova, CU, 16:34.7;   2. Maria Graefnings, Utah, 16:44.9;  3. Rose Kemp, Utah, 16:56.4;  4. Jaime Bronga, UAA, 17:06.1;  5. Ase Carlson, MSU, 17:14.4;  6. Linn Klaesson, UNM, 17:15.6;  7. Laura Rombach, UAA, 17:17.2;  8. Parker Tyler, Utah, 17:29.9;  9. Steffi Hiemer, UAA, 17:28.5;  10. Kate Dolan, DU, 17:30.4.  Other CU Finishers: 11. Joanne Reid, 17:31.3;  13. Mary Rose, 17:54.4;  21. Marianne Madsen, 18:20.5;  31. Katie Stege, 19:16.9.