ANCHORAGE, Alaska - The cancellation of Thursday's men's giant slalom meant that the team points in the slalom would be doubled here Saturday in the Alaska-Anchorage Seawolf Invitational, normally a good thing for a defending national champion University of Colorado ski team traditionally strong in that event.
The Buffaloes trailed Utah by 13 points entering the day, the margin increasing to 33 despite five CU women skiers finishing in the top 12. However, the men's slalom proved to be a total disaster and Colorado would finish third, only the school's second result outside the top two in its last 14 meets dating back to 2010.
Junior Max Lamb appeared to have won the race, but was later disqualified; CU was already without freshman Adam Zika, who was injured in Friday's slalom, and sophomore Andreas Haug had to hike during his first run, meaning he would finish down in the standings.
When all was said and done, senior Taggart Spenst was Colorado's top finisher - placing 20th in a 1:36.17 time, almost 12 seconds behind Denver's Trevor Philp, who won in 1:24.49. Sophomore Fletcher McDonald was 23rd in 1:42.77 and Haug was 28th in 1:59.93. The last time CU's top finish in any of the four disciplines (slalom, GS, Nordic races) was lower than Spenst's 20th place was in 2004 in the regional men's slalom, when only three skiers raced.
Denver had the top two finishers and a skier place seventh, winning the race with 132 team points, thus earning 264 overall, enough to zip past the Buffaloes and finish second with 806 points. No. 1-ranked Utah won with 858 points, while CU was lucky to hold on to third with 775; New Mexico took second in the men's slalom and moved from sixth to fourth, winding up with 769 points.
The Buff women skied conservative for the most part, with five racers placing between sixth and 12th. Denver's Sterling Grant won in 1:24.36, with senior Carolina Nordh posting the best CU finish for the second straight day, her 1:25.26 time giving her sixth place.
That led a wave of Buffaloes, with seniors Katie Hartman (1:25.67) and Erika Ghent (1:25.82) finishing eighth and ninth, followed by freshman Shane McLean in 10th (1:25.85). Senior Jennifer Allen was 12th in 1:26.35, while junior Khyla Burrows did not finish her second run.
CU head coach Richard Rokos, who has always considered any finish outside of a win a bad one, was not too pleased with the events of the day or the week in general for the alpine team, particularly the men's squad.
"It was just a disaster," CU's 21st-year head coach said. "The whole trip here, the guys' alpine team should have gone fishing. They would've caught more fish than they did qualification points."
"It's good to have this behind us; it was a tough four days," Rokos said. "The last day was one of the worst, both how our guys finished and the weather. I don't remember a performance like the guys had today. While this is now in our rear view mirror, it's not easy to forget about; it will stick in my mind for a while. You travel 8,000 miles and have four bad days for the guys, it's not exactly what you're looking for. We have to figure out why this happened and how we can get better. We can't carry it too far, we can't dwell on it, but we do need to learn from it."
"On the men's side, we were down right away," Rokos said. "We had to pull Adam (Zika) out of the slalom due to his injury (in Friday's slalom). We decided to let him rest a little more before regionals. We went down to four men and then Andreas made a mistake so we were still okay heading into the second run but couldn't make any mistakes. And that's what we did, nobody came out of the second run. It was a tough day for the guys to say the least.
"The women were consistent in finishing," Rokos acknowledged. "They didn't get on the podium, but they all finished and everybody but Khyla got in the top 12. That's what I asked of them. They didn't go all out, but they skied fast and were consistent and finished the run."
The regular season is now almost complete, as only Rocky Mountain Intercollegiate Ski Association (RMISA) alpine qualifiers remain on February 22-23 in Bozeman, Mont. The RMISA Championships, which also serves as the NCAA West Regional, will follow on February 24-25.
UAA Seawolf Invitational (Final; 7 events)- 1. Utah 858; 2. Denver 806; 3. Colorado 775; 4. New Mexico 769; 5. Alaska 693; 6. Montana State 690; 7. Westminster 353; 8. Colorado Mountain College 126.
Women's Slalom (31 collegiate finishers)- 1. Sterling Grant, DU, 1:24.36; 2. Anna Kocken, Utah, 1:24.58; 3. Julie Bordeau, Utah, 1:24.90; 4. Stefanie Demetz, UNM, 1:24.96; 5. Devin Delaney, DU, 1:24.97; 6. Carolina Nordh, CU, 1:25.26; 7. Maria Fraschini, WC, 1:25.29; 8. Katie Hartman, CU, 1:25.67; 9. Erika Ghent, CU, 1:25.82; 10. Shane McLean, CU, 1:25.85. Other CU Results: 12. Jennifer Allen, 1:26.25. Did Not Finish (2nd run): Khyla Burrows.
Men's Slalom (33 collegiate finishers)- 1. Trevor Philp, DU, 1:24.49; 2. Espen Lysdahl, DU, 1:25.02; 3. Joonas Rasanen, UNM, 1:25.38; 4. Torjus Krogdahl, Utah, 1:25.56; 5. Petter Brenna, WC, 1:25.66; 6. Christopher Acosta, UNM, 1:25.84; 7. Luke Laidlaw, DU, 1:25.97; 8. Armin Triendl, UNM, 1:26.35; 9. Nick Cohee, Utah, 1:26.43; 10. Niko Harmanen, UAA, 1:26.81. CU Results: 20. Taggart Spenst, 1:36.17; 23. Fletcher McDonald, 1:42.77; 28. Andreas Haug, 1:59.93. Disqualified (2nd run): Max Lamb.
(Associate SID Curtis Snyder contributed to this report.)