BOZEMAN, Mont. - The University of Colorado ski team took advantage of a large buffer it had built through six events and was able to cruise through the slalom with seven combined top 15 efforts here Sunday to clinch the title in the Rocky Mountain Intercollegiate Ski Association Championships, which also doubled as the NCAA West Regional.
The Buffaloes amassed a season-high 905.5 points in winning decisively for the third time in five meets, as Denver overtook Utah for second place but was still some 46.5 points behind CU with 859 points. Utah, which had held the runner-up position after each of the first two days, slipped to third with 805 points.
Colorado captured its 12th RMISA/West Regional title in the 23 years that Richard Rokos as served as the program's head coach, and its 23rd overall in the 60-plus year history of the conference. Under Rokos, the Buffaloes have now won 60 of 139 meets they have skied in, which also includes six NCAA titles, and have finished second anther 45 times.
Since the sport went coed in 1983, this was just the fifth time that one school swept all the meets in the west leading up to the NCAA Championships: Utah was the first to do it in 1989, followed by the Buffaloes in 1995, Denver in 2005 and the Utes again last year. CU and DU went on to win the NCAA title those years for a complete start-to-finish sweep.
"This wraps up a great regular season," Rokos said. "We had solid consistency across the board in the performance of all the teams. The Nordics did a great job without question, but the alpine teams contributed as well. They skied well here under very difficult conditions.
"The goal (Sunday) was not to goof up anything," he said of CU taking a huge lead into the last two races. "I told them last night it would take the village to lose the race and they listened. Everybody put forth a great effort under difficult conditions, especially in the men's race. Andreas (Haug) did particularly well, starting in 28th on his second run with nothing but ruts to ski in because of the heavy snowfall here. It was the same for the entire field, no benefit to be seeded early today, but he did a great job in finishing seventh as did Cameron (Smith) in 10th."
In the men's slalom, which saw just a shade over two seconds (2.02 to be exact) separate the first 21 skiers, Denver's Espen Lysdahl won in a 1:50.37 time, by a fifth of a second over New Mexico's Christopher Acosta.
Colorado was led by junior Andreas Haug for the second straight day, as he finished seventh in 1:51.32 after taking fifth in Saturday's giant slalom. Freshman Cameron Smith added another top 10 finish here, taking 10th in the slalom in 1:51.54; he was eighth in the GS.
Other CU performances Sunday included junior Fletcher McDonald finishing 12th (1:51.69), freshmen Henrik Gunnarsson 15th (1:51.90) and Kasper Hietnanen 20th (1:52.28) and senior Max Lamb 27th (2:01.99).
The women's slalom wasn't nearly as close as the men's race (two second separated the top three), with DU's Kristine Haugen completing an individual sweep this weekend with the top time of 1:36.81.
Colorado was led by freshman Jessica Honkonen, who finished fourth in 1:39.35, the fifth time she has finished in the top four in the slalom this winter (in six races; she was disqualified in the other).
Freshman Thea Grosvold grabbed ninth place in a 1:40.68 time (tying with Montana State's Stephanie Irwin), her fifth top 10 finish in the slalom (and all six in the top 12).
Rounding out the Buffs were freshmen Brooke Wales (14th, in 1:40.86), senior Khyla Burrows (22nd, 1:43.62 in her last race as a Buff), and frosh Clare Wise (27th, 2:21.24). Wales was having a fantastic first run but made a mistake at the end that cost her. She rebounded to have the fourth-fastest second run to move back up into the top 15.
Colorado will now prepare for the NCAA Championships, which will be held March 6-9 in Middlebury, Vt. The giant slalom will open the event on that Wednesday, followed by the Nordic classical races (Thursday), the slalom (Friday) and closing with the freestyle (Saturday).
Vermont won all six eastern carnivals this winter, so it appears the Buffaloes and the Catamounts are the favorites heading in, but there are no less than six teams that will have a say in the matter.
Rokos has a light week planned for his team ahead of leaving for Vermont this Friday. "We need to take care of school, get in a couple of days of training before we leave. Everyone is good health, no reason to push anything this week. We need to get used to the eastern snow and we'll get four solid days of training in prior to our first race."
The coaches have already selected which 12 skiers will represent the Buffaloes next week: Gunnarsson, Haug and Hietanen (men's alpine); Grosvold, Honkonen and Wales (women's alpine); Andreas Hoye, Gustav Nordstrom and Rune Oedegaard (men's Nordic); and Eliska Hajkova, Maria Nordstroem and Joanne Reid (women's Nordic).
There is still time to substitute through Tuesday, but sophomore Shane McLean is suffering from concussion symptoms as is likely out; she was CU's second highest seeded women's alpine skier. If the group of 12 holds, CU would be traveling a school record seven freshmen to the NCAA's.
RMISA Championship Team Scores (Final; 8 events)--1. Colorado 905.5; 2. Denver 859; 3. Utah 805; 4. New Mexico 755; 5. Montana State 739; 6. Alaska-Anchorage 620.
Men's Slalom (30 collegiate finishers)--1. Espen Lysdahl, DU, 1:50.37; 2. Christopher Acosta, UNM, 1:50.57; 3. Max Marno, DU, 1:50.68; 4. Michael Bansmer, UNM, 1:51.14; 5. Michael Mackie, MSU, 1:51.17; 6. Grant Jampolsky, DU, 1:51.19; 7. Andreas Haug, CU, 1:51.32; 8. Mark Miller, UNM, 1:51.34; 9. Michael Radford, MSU, 1:51.39; 10. Cameron Smith, CU, 1:51.54. Other CU Finishers: 12. Fletcher McDonald, 1:51.69; 15. Henrik Gunnarsson, 1:51.90; 20. Kasper Hietanen, 1:52.28; 27. Max Lamb, 2:01.99.
Women's Slalom (28 collegiate finishers)--1. Kristine Haugen, DU, 1:36.81; 2. Ana Kobal, Utah, 1:37.93; 3. Mateja Robnik, UNM, 1:38.75; 4. Jessica Honkonen, CU, 1:39.35; 5. Kate Williams, UNM, 1:39.93; 6. Devin Delaney, DU, 1:39.96; 7. Kelly McBroom, MSU and Jaime DuPratt, Utah, 1:40.50; 9. Thea Groswold, CU, and Stephanie Irwin, MSU, 1:40.68. Other CU Finishers: 14. Brooke Wales, 1:40.86; 22. Khyla Burrows, 1:43.62; 27. Clare Wise, 2:21.24.
(Associate SID Curtis Snyder contributed to this report.)