STEAMBOAT SPRINGS & WINTER PARK — A second straight double-podium finish in men’s Nordic competition and a strong women’s slalom performance paved the way Saturday for the University of Colorado ski team to move up a notch into third place in its own Spencer James Nelson Memorial Invitational, with one day of alpine events remaining.
The Nordic competition was held again at the Howelsen Hill Ski Area in Steamboat, while the slalom was run at Winter Park, the latter in very tough conditions.
Denver remained in the lead, with 512 total points with only the giant slalom races left on Sunday. After the Pioneers, who extended their advantage from 22 to 69 points, it’s a total logjam with just six points separating second through fourth: New Mexico (443), Colorado (438) and Utah (437). Alaska Anchorage rounds out the top five with 324, followed by Montana State (308) in the nine-school event.
“It was a long day for us coaches, there was a lot of shoveling with a ton of new and fresh snow,” CU head coach Richard Rokos said. “The guys skied how they should. There was an unfortunate situation for Jessica (Honkonen), after leading the first run, a half-second lead headed into the second run and with a mishandling of the timing, she ended up with her hand time and that didn’t reflect her actual run, but there’s not much we can do.”
The women’s alpine team got the day started in Winter Park and Honkonen looked to be en route to her second straight slalom win and after clocking the a 49.59 time in the first run, more than a half-second faster than the rest of the field, she was the victim of a timing mishap in the second run. Unfortunately, the hand time was also off, putting her down to fourth place. The second run time she was given was slower than anybody else who finished in the top 20, but there was no action that she or Rokos could take to rectify the situation.
Still, Honkonen, who’s official time was 1:41.80, was joined by a trio of teammates just behind her fourth place finish as the Buffs placed four skiers in the top seven. Junior Shane McLean was fifth in 1:42.07 with sophomore Brooke Wales sixth in 1:42.45 and sophomore Thea Grosvold seventh in 1:42.64. McLean’s fifth place finish and Wales sixth place were both career bests in slalom for the GS specialists.
“Having four girls in the top 10 is always a great thing,” Rokos said. “It’s a great situation, it demonstrates the depth. Jessica is capable of winning every slalom, so overall it’s a good confidence builder.”
All six women finished two solid runs as sophomore Clare Wise finished 17th after starting 34th and freshman Katie Hostetler skied her way to 21st after staring 53rd. Hostetler had a great first run in which she placed 31st and missed the flip by just one spot, meaning if she had finished one spot higher, she would’ve been the first skier in the second run instead of the 31st.
“Clare had a good race and Katie missed the flip by one spot, and coming from starting in 53rd, that’s a long ways and it’s good to see that everybody is moving up, and the girls have high points and going through the field and moving up.”
On the men’s side, the Buffs were again led by senior Fletcher McDonald, who had his second straight top five slalom finish with a fifth place showing in a time of 1:36.21. Sophomore Henrik Gunnarsson finished tied for 10th in a time of 1:37.44 and senior Andreas Haug was the Buffs third scorer in 16th in a time of 1:38.06.
“As for the guys, the snow was soft, some had decent seeding and some not,” Rokos said. “They all fought and finished about how they were expected to have.”
Freshman Roger Carry was 18th in a time of 1:38.18 followed closely by teammate Adam Zika (1:38.44) in 20th and sophomore Cameron Smith (1:38.54) in 21st. Sophomore Kasper Hietanen did not finish the first run and freshman Tanner Mottau did not race but is expected to in Sunday’s GS race.
“It was a really good team effort,” Wales said. “There was some really soft snow, so the whole team was dealing with some ruts and bad course conditions on both the men’s and women’s side. It was tough to get through that. The entire women’s team finished two solid runs, all six of us, it was a really solid effort today.”
Wales came into CU as a giant slalom specialist having not trained extensively in the slalom discipline. After steadily improving in slalom throughout her freshman season, she continues to improve and now has two consecutive top 10 finishes after taking eighth at the Montana State Invitational.
“My slalom has got a lot better since I’ve been training a lot more and I feel a lot more confident,” she added. “It’s great to be training with such a great team, we just have a great team effort all the way around right now.”
Meanwhile in Steamboat Springs, CU freshman Mads Stroem won an exciting men’s 20-kilometer freestyle race after it appeared to be ho-hum for a good three-quarters of the race. He was clocked in 52:40.8, edging junior teammate Rune Oedegaard (52:41.6) and Denver’s Moritz Madlener (52:45.5).
“It was unexpected,” Stroem said. “This one guy (Utah’s Noe Bellet) was just killing it from the beginning and Rune followed him. I knew I couldn’t do anything because he was up there so I had to stay in the second pack. For me that was great, I didn’t use a lot of energy. The DU skier (Moritz Madlener) took off after Rune and I went with him.”
Oedegaard and Bellet built up a 15-second lead after the first lap. Bellet soon fell back so Oedegaard essentially cruised the remainder of the way with a lead somewhere between 15 and 25 seconds until the last couple of kilometers.
“I was focusing on staying behind the Denver guys, I knew they would have to go strong to try and catch Rune,” Stroem said. “He went for the move with 2-3K left, we caught Rune with about 2K left and it was mostly downhill after that.”
“I don’t think Mads wanted to chase down his teammate and pull other skiers along, maybe he would have chased him, down if it was him alone, but team-wise, he didn’t want to help other teams,” CU Nordic coach Bruce Cranmer said. “Since somebody else went, he was willing to go with him and obviously had enough left to win, which was great.”
Within sight of the finish line, Stroem broke away and Oedegaard surged past Madlener into second place. Oedegaard had caught Stroem at the finish as the duo finished less than a second apart. Stroem’s winning time was a blazing 52:40.8 and Oedegaard crossed the line in 52:41.6, by then about four seconds ahead of Madlener (52:45.5).
“One-two is as good as you can do it and where we want to be,” Oedegaard said. “I never meant to get the gap, I was just trying to keep up with Bellet. But after you get the gap, you do your best to maintain it, I wanted to make it a hard race, so if they caught me they’d be tired. I understood in the middle of the third lap, I actually puked in the middle of the third lap, I thought they’d catch me then. At the start of the fourth lap, I thought maybe I could keep it up. I knew they would catch me so I decided to save some energy for the end and was able to push hard to get second.”
“It’s always nice to go 1-2,” Cranmer added. “I don’t think skiing a 20k way out in front is a great idea, it’s just really hard to stay ahead that long, especially with the field that’s here. If you can stay way out, sure then that’s a good idea, but I really didn’t think that was Rune’s plan. It just evolved that way today and the other boys were able to relax a bit and just had a little more energy at the end.
As for the pair of podiums in their first races this season (they finished 1-3 in Friday’s classical race with Oedegaard winning, after missing four races at the start of these season due to racing in the Norwegian National Championships), Cranmer was pleased but not overly surprised. “I didn’t know for sure they would on their top games, but there’s always podium potential for those two, and we always have that expectation. But regardless, it’s always nice to see.”
Junior Arnaud Du Pasquier was the Buffs third team scorer for the second straight day, finishing 13th in a time of 54:32.5. He was as high as seventh well past the halfway point of the race but didn’t quite have perfect skis and found himself falling behind on the flats while making up ground on the uphill portions.
Senior Andreas Hoye finished two spots behind Du Pasquier in 15th in a time of 55:16.9 and junior Emil Johansson was 16th in 55:20.6. Freshman Jackson Hill finished 25th in 59:37.3 and freshman Max Scrimgeour was 28th in 1:00:54.0.
In the women’s race, freshman Camilla Brautaset led the Buffs with an 11th place finish in 49:33.4 and it could’ve been even higher had she not fallen. Freshman Lucy Newman, racing on her home course as a Steamboat Springs native, finished 16th in 51:40.3 and Maja Solbakken, who is still recovering from being sick, took 25th in 54:21.7.
“Camilla fell pretty hard on one of the steeper downhills,” Cranmer said. “She gave up a lot of speed and time, and even though she caught up to that group, that can take a lot out of you. Lucy had another day like yesterday, a little below where we think she can ski. Maja was having trouble breathing today, so she was compromised a bit.”
The Nordic portion of the meet is complete, with the giant slalom remaining on Sunday at Winter Park. The teams will finish off action Monday with the second of two alpine qualifiers of the season. The men will get the action underway at 9:15 a.m. with the women following at 10:30 a.m.
“I was surprised how much we’ve improved in GS lately, it has not been the strongest suit for us and it’s becoming that way just how the guys are seeded,” Rokos said in looking ahead to Sunday. “It will be a good race, it’s soft but hopefully it will harden overnight and no new snow is expected, so we should have a fair race and we are looking forward to it.”
“The goal (in the GS) to make it down cleanly through the ruts,” Wales said. “The snow isn’t that great, especially over the pitch I think it will be breaking down quite a bit. It will take some smart skiing and a little bit of battling to ski fast.”
Colorado Invitational Team Scores (6 of 8 events)—1. Denver 512; 2. New Mexico 443; 3. Colorado 438; 4. Utah 437; 5. Alaska-Anchorage 324; 6. Montana State 308; 7. Wyoming 76; 8. Westminster 75; 9. Colorado Mountain College 30.
Men’s Slalom (35 finishers)— 1. Espen Lysdahl, DU, 1:35.48; 2. Tim Lindgren, WMC, 1:35.64; 3. Sebastian Brigovic, DU, 1:35.73; 4. Sean Horner, UNM, 1:36.20; 5. Fletcher McDonald, CU, 1:36.21; 6. Mark Engel, Utah, 1:36.68; 7. Grant Jampolsky, DU, 1:36.99; 8. Joonas Rasanen, UNM, 1:37.08; 9. David Herzog, WMC, 1:37.20; 10. Henrik Gunnarson, CU, and Michael Bansmer, UNM, 1:37.44; 12. Joergen Brath, Utah, 1:37.48; 13. Mark Miller, UNM, 1;37.54; 14. Niko Harmanen, UAA, 1:37.82; 15. Taylor Shiffrin, DU, 1:37.89; 16. Andreas Haug, CU, 1:38.06; 17. Nikolai Narvestad, WMC, 1:38.08; 18. Roger Carry, CU, 1:38.18; 19. Benoit Jagot, WMC, 1:38.24; 20. Adam Zika, CU, 1:38.44; 21. Cameron Smith, CU, 1:38.54; 22. Hughston Norton, UAA, 1:38.55; 23. Scott Snow, UNM, 1:38.61; 24. Juho-Pekka Penttinen, UNM, 1:38.75; 25. Eian Sandvik, Utah, 1:38.90; 26. Andy Trow, Utah, 1:39.04; 27. David Owsley, MSU, 1:40.85; 28. Armin Triendl, UNM, 1:41.49; 29. Curtis McKillop, UAA, 1:41.64; 30. Kei Kullberg, UAA, 1:43.38; 31. Kitt Flowers, DU, 1:44.48; 32. Connor Croasdale, CMC, 1:44.60; 33. Will Cutler, CMC, 1:48.38; 34. Owen Wattenmaker, CMC, 1:50.56; 35. Ryan McConnell, MSU, 2:05.14. Other Colorado Skier—Kasper Hietanen (DNF, 1st run).
Women’s Slalom (28 finishers)— 1. Kristiina Rove, UU, 1:41.33; 2. Ana Kobal, UU, 1:41.6; 3. Tianda Carroll, DU, 1:41.7; 4. Jessica Honkonen, CU, 1:41.8; 5. Shane McLean, CU, 1:42.1; 6. Brooke Wales, CU, 1:42.4; 7. Thea Grosvold, CU, 1:42.6; 8. Courtney Altringer, UNM, 1:42.9; 9. Jaime DuPratt, UU, 1:43.1; 10. Devin Delaney, DU, 1:43.6; 11. Emily Danza, MSU, 1:44.1; 12. Sydney Staples, UNM, 1:44.3; 13. Marissa Riopelle, MSU, 1:44.4; 14. Tenaya Driller, MSU, 1:44.6; 15. Stephanie Irwin, MSU, 1:45.6; 16. Sarah Freeman, MSU, 1:45.6; 17. Clare Wise, CU, 1:46.8; 18. Natalie Knowles, DU, 1:46.9; 19. Teagen Palmer, UU, 1:47.2; 20. Kaytlyn Samuelson, MSU, 1:48.7; 21. Katie Hostetler, CU, 1:49.1; 22. Isabella Andreini, UAA, 1:49.3; 23. Kelly McBroom, MSU, 1:52.2; 24. Miranda Sheely, UAA, 1:52.4; 25. Victoria McVicker, UAA, 1:52.4; 26. Una Trivanovic, MSU, 1:54.5; 27. Bridget French, DU, 1:58.3; 28. Taylor Grauer, UNM, 2:07.3.
Men’s 20k Classical (28 finishers)— 1. Mads Stroem, CU, 52:40.8; 2. Rune Oedegaard, CU, 52:41.6; 3. Moritz Madlener, DU, 52:45.5; 4. Pierre Guedon, DU, 52:57.0; 5. Noe Bellet, Utah, 53:01.3; 6. Niklas Persson, Utah, 53:07.0; 7. Lukas Ebner, UAA, 53:23.2; 8. Aku Nikander, UNM, 54:00.7; 9. Ajaz Praznik, UNM, 54:03.9; 10. Sawyer Kesselheim, MSU, 54:04.8; 11. Mats Resaland, UNM, 54:07.8; 12. Patrick Madden, MSU, 54:21.4; 13. Arnaud Du Pasquier, CU, 54:32.5; 14. Tucker McCrerey, Utah, 55:02.7; 15. Andreas Hoye, CU, 55:16.9; 16. Emil Johansson, CU, 55:20.6; 17. Kevin Bolger, Utah, 55:23.4; 18. Opel Marshall, MSU, 55:29.4; 19. Trygve Markset, DU, 55:58.8; 20. Mahlen Forrest, MSU, 56:01.0; 21. Etienne Richard, UAA, 56:28.5; 22. Joergen Bye Brevik, DU, 58:53.0; 23. Andrew Arnold, UAA, 58:53.1; 24. Oscar Ivars, Utah, 59:00.6; 25. Jackson Hill, CU, 59:37.3; 26. Brandon Brewster, UAA, 59:37.4; 27. Davis Dunlap, UAA, 59:37.5; 28. Max Scrimgeour, CU, 1:00.54.
Women’s 15k Freestyle (25 finishers)— 1. Eva Severrus, UNM, 46:31.5; 2. Sylvia Nordskar, DU, 46:35.4; 3 Marine Dusser, UAA, 46:51.5; 4. Anni Nord, UNM, 47:59.5; 5. Isabella Smith, MSU, 48:44.5; 6. Kate Backstrum, MSU, 48:50.6; 7. Jessica Jortberg, DU, 48:52.2; 8. Annie Liotta, MSU, 48:55.9; 9. Silje Benum, DU, 49:20.6; 10. Elena Breed, DU, 49:32.7; 11. Camila Brautaset, CU, 49:33.4; 12. Makayla Cappel, DU, 49:56.7; 13. Andrea Lee, UNM, 50:43.4; 14. Anna Svendsen, UU, 51:08.7; 15. Jessica Yeaton, MSU, 51:35.0; 16. Lucy Newman, CU, 51:40.3; 17. Julia Hayes, MSU, 51:43.8; 18. Heleene Tambet, UNM, 51:56.1; 19. Josefin Nilsson, UU, 52:32.7; 20. Anne-Tine Markset, DU, 52:49.9; 21. Madeleine Thorn, UU, 53:24.3; 22. Anna Daudert, UNM, 53:39.4; 23. Patricia Sprecher, UAA, 53:40.9; 24. Synnoeve Bruland, UAA, 54:21.5; 25. Maja Solbakken, CU, 54:21.7.
(Associate SID Curtis Snyder contributed to this report.)