WINTER PARK — After a tough day Sunday in the giant slalom races as part of the University of Colorado’s Spencer James Nelson Memorial Invitational, the Buffs rebounded Monday to post five top 10 finishes in a Rocky Mountain Intercollegiate Ski Association Qualifier race.
There is no team scoring associated with the qualifier races. This was the second and final qualifier race of the season, both of which are giant slalom races to offset the two slalom races in the New Mexico Invitational next weekend. Thus, Monday’s GS races were the final of the regular season.
In tough conditions that saw almost a third of the collegiate field not finish on both the men’s and women’s side, the Buffs were able to power through for the most part and take advantage with some good results.
Sophomore Brooke Wales led the way on the women’s side, earning her second runner-up finish of the season and securing what should be a top NCAA Qualification seed, as each skier’s top two performances throughout the season are taken into account. Wales had the seventh-fastest first run but then crushed her second run, the fastest in the entire field, to move up to second place with a two-run time of 2:04.74.
“I was pretty disappointed after the first run, I feel like I haven’t been skiing GS as fast I can this weekend,” Wales said. “I had a good conversation with our assistant coach Tag (Spenst), we talked through some stuff and had a good game plan. The conditions weren’t good, maybe a little better than yesterday, but we’ve been battling ruts and giant bumps all weekend.”
“Today was aimed to qualification for NCAA Championships and in Brooke’s case it paid off well, that’s what we were hoping for,” Rokos added.
Sophomore Jessica Honkonen also had an impressive performance. After staring 11th in the first run, she slipped two spots with the 13th fastest first run, but then she put a solid second run down and move up to seventh place in 2:08.02. Junior Shane McLean had some bad luck, falling on her second run with just one or two gates left before the finish line. She was in the top 10 after the first run and looking to move up significantly, as well.
Sophomore Thea Grosvold finished 18th in a time of 2:10.39, freshman Katie Hostetler was 21st in 2:14.98 and sophomore Clare Wise finished 24th in 2:17.80 to round out the women’s action.
On the men’s side, as has been the case most of the season, somebody new stepped up to earn the Buffs best finish. Monday belonged to freshman Roger Carry, who finished fifth in a time of 2:03.25. The guys had two more in the top 10 as sophomore Cameron Smith finished eighth in 2:03.72 and sophomore Adam Zika was 10th in 2:03.83.
“It was pretty tough conditions, the snow was soft all week,” Carry said. “I was just trying to stay loose and athletic with whatever track there was. It’s nice to have guys around you to push and make you keep improving.”
“Last night we were all pretty bummed out,” Smith added. “But we came out today and we knew what we needed to focus on after yesterday, so it was nice to have a few top 10s to see that it paid off.”
Zika earned his second straight top 10 after finishing ninth on Sunday. It has been a long road back for Zika, who won the 2012 NCAA Individual Championship in the GS before missing all of the 2013 season with an injured knee. He wasn’t able to ski until January and has slowly been improving throughout the season.
“I’m not quite 100 percent but it’s getting better every race,” Zika said. “I think I’ll be full-go again soon. The team is pushing me to work hard and I’m progressing. The next step is to try and get into that super seed (top seven starting bib) and then hopefully get back to the podium.”
Senior Andreas Haug was just outside the top 10, finishing 12th in a time of 2:04.28 with sophomore Kasper Hietanen on his heels in 13th in a time of 2:04.43, meaning the five Buffs that finished were again grouped in a span of just nine skiers. Senior Fletcher McDonald and freshman Tanner Mottau did not finish their first runs and sophomore Henrik Gunnarsson took the day off of skiing.
Mottau had a bit of bad luck. He had the best starting position for the Buffs (No. 6) on Monday. Unfortunately, Utah’s Joergen Brath, who skied one spot ahead of Mottau, had a crash and the race officials made Mottau stop and take a rerun. By the time Mottau got to back to the top of the hill for that rerun, another 10-15 skiers had gone and the course was dramatically different, and he didn’t finish that run.
“The guys are rotating the pole position in almost every race,” Rokos said. “Roger’s finish demonstrates how deep we are there. It’s also good to see Adam continuing to recover on a bumpy course running as fast as he can. We need somebody to break the pattern and get out of the group.”
The Buffs and rest of the collegiate skiers have a quick turnaround before the start of the New Mexico Invitational, set for Friday and Saturday in Red River, N.M. After that, the regular season will be complete with just the RMISA Championships (Feb. 22-23) and NCAA Championships (March 5-8) remaining.
“It’s actually been a fairly long season when you account for World University Games and our trip to Italy in December,” Rokos said. “But when you talk about the college season, it’s five quick weekends and it goes by way too fast.”
Women’s Giant Slalom (26 finishers)— 1. Mateja Robnik, UNM, 2:04.09; 2. Brooke Wales, CU, 2:04.74; 3. Kristiina Rove, UU, 2:05.55; 4. Kelly McBroom, MSU, 2:05.58; 5. Devin Delaney, DU, 2:07.24; 6. Natalie Knowles, DU, 2:07.69; 7. Jessica Honkonen, CU, 2:08.02; 8. Bridget French, DU, 2:08.06; 9. Stephanie Irwin, MSU, 2:08.15; 10. Courtney Altringer, UNM, 2:08.24; 11. Teagen Palmer, UU, 2:08.31 and Lauren Samuels, UU, 2:08.31; 13. Vanessa Berther, UAA, 2:08.69; 4. Sydney Staples, UNM, 2:08.71; 15. Emily Danza, MSU, 2:09.37; 16. Tenaya Driller, MSU, 2:09.87; 7. Isabella Andreini, UAA, 2:10.18; 18. Thea Grosvold, CU, 2:10.39; 19. Taylor Grauer, UNM, 2:10.62; 20. Marissa Riopelle, MSU, 2:11.38; 21. Katie Hostetler, CU, 2:14.98; 22. Sarah Freeman, MSU, 2:15.23; 23. Victoria McVicker, UAA, 2:15.88; 24. Clare Wise, CU, 2:17.80; 25. Una Trivanovic, MSU, 2:20.65; 26. Miranda Sheely, UAA, 2:22.07. Other Colorado Skier—Shane McLean (DNF, 2nd Run).
Men’s Giant Slalom (25 finishers)— 1. Tim Lindgren, WMC, 2:02.08; 2. Sean Horner, UNM, 2:02.74; 3. Michael Bansmer, UNM, 2:03.14; 4. David Neuhauser, MSU, 2:03.16; 5. Roger Carry, CU, 2:03.25; 6. Armin Triendl, UNM, 2:03.38; 7. Jonas Nyberg, WMC, 2:03.56; 8. Cameron Smith, CU, and Benoit Jagot, WMC, 2:03.72; 10. Adam Zika, CU, 2:03.83; 11. Andy Trow, UU, 2:04.19; 12. Andreas Haug, CU, 2:04.28; 13. Kasper Hietanen, CU, 2:04.43; 14. David Owsley, MSU, 2:04.70 and Joonas Rasanen, UNM, 2:04.70; 16. Mark Miller, UNM, 2:04.2; 7. Taylor Shiffrin, DU, 2:05.02; 18. Simon Ruud, WMC, 2:05.20; 19. Juho-Pekka Penttinen, UNM, 2:05.53; 20. Charlie Reynolds, DU, 2:05.95; 21. Ryan McConnell, MSU, 2:06.08; 22. Eian Sandvik, UU, 2:06.42; 23. Hughston Norton, UAA, 2:08.99; 24. James Schindler, UAA, 2:10.17; 25. Scott Snow, UNM, 2:10.36. Other Colorado Skiers—Fletcher McDonald (DNF, 1st run), Tanner Mottau (DNF, 1st Run).