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PARK CITY & MIDWAY, Utah—Very short-handed on the Nordic side, the defending NCAA Champion University of Colorado ski team got the 2014 season off to a rough start and stands in fifth place after the first day of the 2014 Pat Miller Invitational, hosted here by the University of Utah.

The host Utes are leading with a total of 362.5 points and hold a 71.5 point lead over Denver (291) while New Mexico sits third with 264.5 points. The Buffs in fifth place with 224 points are 13 points behind Alaska Anchorage (237) and 17 points ahead of sixth place Montana State (207). Affiliate members Westminster College (106), Wyoming (14) and Colorado Mountain College (0) round out the scoring.

The Buffs Saturday had just one skier on the men’s and women’s Nordic team that has competed in a collegiate race prior to Saturday, junior Arnaud Du Pasquier, and on top of that had just one women’s Nordic skier, Lucy Newman, able to compete.

As a result, the Buffs mustered just 77 points in the two Nordic races. The Buffs did have a solid day on the alpine side, finishing with the third most points, 147. The Buffs would’ve likely had the most alpine points on the day had it not been for CU coach Richard Rokos’ decision not to count the score of freshman Tanner Mottau, who started 26th and earned a podium appearance, taking third in his first collegiate race. Had Rokos picked Mottau, the Buffs would have gained 13 additional points and all other teams would’ve lost a few points apiece.

“Athletes need to gain confidence in their coaches,” Rokos explained. “And coaches need to gain confidence in their athletes. This is a typical case about a coach not being confident enough. Tanner has struggled to put two good runs together all season, even in training. I thought that may prove to be the same, but he proved me wrong, and that’s great. He put two runs together at the perfect time.”

Teams with more than six skiers have to designate just six who will count for team scoring. The Buffs currently have eight men’s alpine skiers on the squad, six of which finished in the top 15. Mottau’s time of 1:58.51 was just 14-hundredths of a second behind second place Tim Lindgren from Westminster College while Denver’s Trevor Philp ran away with the race in a time of 1:56.83.

Sophomore Kasper Hietanen took eighth in a time of 2:00.25 while sophomore Henrik Gunnarsson was 10th in 2:00.40. Sophomore Adam Zika, running his first collegiate race since winning the NCAA Giant Slalom Championship in March of 2012, finished 11th in 2:00.51. Senior Andreas Haug was 13th in a time of 2:00.72.

Sophomore Cameron Smith finished 15th in 2:01.37 while senior Fletcher McDonald was 22nd in a time of 2:03.28. Freshman Roger Carry did not finish his first run.

“Our strength on the men’s side is consistency and depth and six guys in the top 15 is good,” Rokos said. “I think we can even get faster. Adam is building his confidence, testing his leg and getting more confidence with every run.”

The women’s alpine team also had a solid day led by sophomore Jessica Honkonen, who finished as a runner-up in a time of 1:47.63, just one-hundredth of a second behind Westminster’s Tonje Sekse, who won in a time of 1:47.62. Honkonen did earn a maximum NCAA qualifying score because Sekse is not an NCAA skier.

Sophomore Thea Grosvold finished eighth in a time of 1:49.56 while junior Shane McLean took 15th in 1:50.91. Sophomore Clare Wise was 27th in 1:58.37 while freshman Katie Hostetler was 29th in 2:01.29. Sophomore Brooke Wales, who had had a top 10 seed, did not finish her first run.

“All of them skied very well and very consistent,” Rokos said. “Clair skied well and Katie had a mistake in the first run, but was solid. Those four are charging strong, Brooke, Jessica, Shane and Thea. Brooke unfortunately skied out and I think we had some miscommunication or she could’ve avoided it.”

On the Nordic side, to say the Buffs are short-handed would be an understatement. CU’s lone woman, Lucy Newman, did have an impressive showing, finishing seventh amongst RMISA skiers at the U.S. National Championships in the 10K Classical race. Her time of 33:14.1 was about two minutes behind the race winner, Marine Dusser from Alaska Anchorage.

Fellow freshmen to the women’s Nordic team, Jesse Knori and Maja Solbakken both did not start the race. And Camilla Brautaset, a spring enrollee for the Buffs, is in Boulder finishing up her official paperwork before heading to Salt Lake City early this week for the second race in the Invitational on Wednesday.

“Jesse has been sick, she came to CU sick and has been sick since,” Rokos said. “She been fighting something for a while. The women’s team is all new people, they obviously need to prove themselves a little bit and get some experience.”

On the men’s side, the Buffs were without it’s Norwegian contingent of Rune Oedegaard, Mads Stroem and Andreas Hoye, the first two of which are competing in the Norwegian National Championships. Hoye will be back for the Montana State Invitational and Oedegaard and Stroem will miss the entirety of the first two meets and debut their seasons at the CU Invitational in late January.

“Let’s hope when the guys come back from Norway and Camilla comes in, that we will be back at our regular strength,” Rokos said.

Du Pasquier was the Buffs top finisher in the men’s 20K classical race, coming in with a time of 42:54.4 to finish 12th among collegians. Freshman Jackson Hill took 17th in 44:28.8, junior Emil Johansson was 18th in 45:35.2 while freshman Max Scimgeour did not start.

The Pat Miller Invitational continues Sunday with the conclusion of the alpine portion of the meet. The women’s giant slalom and men’s slalom races will begin at 9 a.m. The meet will then conclude Wednesday with the women’s 20K and men’s 30K freestyle races, still a part of the U.S. National Championships.

“Tomorrow on the alpine side, we should be a little better,” Rokos said. “Our guys in slalom, they’re typically a little better and the girls are skiing well in both slalom and GS, but we have four girls and five guys starting in the top 15 tomorrow, so we need to take advantage of those starting positions.”

“The Nordic teams need to recoup together and lick their wounds, there is some sickness,” Rokos continued. “It will be important for us when the we get back to full strength to take advantage of that as much as we can.”

TEAM SCORES—1. Utah, 362.5; 2. Denver 291; 3. New Mexico 264.5; 4. Alaska Anchorage 237; 5. Colorado 224; 6. Montana State, 207; 7. Westminster College, 106; 8. Wyoming 14; 9. Colorado Mountain College 0.

MEN’S GIANT SLALOM (29 Collegiate Finishers)—1. Trevor Philp, DU, 1:56.83; 2. Tim Lindgren, WMC, 1:58.37; 3. Tanner Mottau, CU, 1:58.51; 4. Espen Lysdahl, DU, 1:58.54; 5. Mark Engel, UU, 1:58.74; 6. Jonas Nyberg, WMC, 1:59.06; 7. Armin Triendl, UNM, 1:59.25; 8. Kasper Hietanen, CU, 2:00.25; 9. Joergen Brath, UU, 2:00.32; 10. Henrik Gunnarsson, CU, 2:00.40. Other CU Finishers: 11. Adam Zika, 2:00.51; 13. Andreas Haug, 2:00.40; 15. Cameron Smith, 2:01.37; 22. Fletcher McDonald, 2:03.28. Did Not Finish (First Run): Roger Carry.

WOMEN’S SLALOM (34 Collegiate Finishers)—1. Tonje Sekse, WMC, 1:47.62; 2. Jessica Honkonen, CU, 1:47.63; 3. Kristiina Rove, UU, 1:48.53; 4. Karoline Myklebust, UNM, 1:49.08; 5. Devin Delaney, DU, 1:49.23; 6. Chloe Fausa, UU, 1:49.27; 7. Tianda Carroll, DU, 1:49.48; 8. Thea Grosvold, CU, 1:49.56; t-9. Mateja Robnik, UNM and Ana Kobal, UU, 1:49.97. Other CU Finishers: 15. Shane McLean, 1:50.91; 27. Clare Wise, 1:58.37; 29. Katie Hostetler, 2:01.29. Did Not Finish (First Run): Brooke Wales.

WOMEN’S 10K CLASSICAL (21 Collegiate Finishers)—1. Marine Dusser, Alaska Anchorage, 31:15.8; 2. Sloan Storey, UU, 31:36.7; 3. Anna-Lena Heynen, UU, 31:56.3; 4. Anna Svendsen, UU, 32:39.7; 5. Katie Gill, DU, 32:43.5; 6. Jessica Yeaton, MSU, 33:03.7; 7. Lucy Newman, CU, 33:14.1; 8. Anni Nord, UNM, 33:46.7; 9. Andrea Lee, UNM, 33:51.8; 10. Synnoeve Bruland, UAA, 33:53.9. Did Not Start: Jesse Knori, Maja Solbakken.

MEN’S 15K CLASSICAL (22 Collegiate Finishers)—1. Niklas Persson, UU, 40:13.3; 2. Oscar Ivars, UU, 40:26.4; 3. Mortiz Madelener, DU, 40:54.4; 4. Kevin Bolger, UU, 41:18.0; 5. Lukas Ebner, UAA, 41:32.1; 6. Mats Resaland, UNM, 41:38.9; 7. Pierre Guedon, DU, 42:03.1; 8. Aku Nikander, UNM, 42:03.6; 9. Noe Bellet, UU, 42:27.4; 10. Etienne Richard, UAA, 42:37.4. CU Finishers: 12. Arnaud Du Pasquier, 42:54.4; 17. Jackson Hill, 44:28.8; 18. Emil Johansson, 45:35.2. Did Not Start: Max Scrimgeour.