RED RIVER, N.M. — The University of Colorado ski team had its best day of the 2014 season and sits in second place at the Jade Enterprises New Mexico Invitational, hosted here at the Red River Ski Area and Enchanted Forest Cross Country Ski Area Friday and Saturday.
Despite a podium appearance from sophomore Jessica Honkonen in the women’s slalom race, three in the top 11 and senior Fletcher McDonald not finishing despite being en route to a race win in men’s alpine and two top five performances in men’s Nordic, the story of the day was without a doubt the women’s Nordic team, who saw its best two individual results of the season with encouraging results as the Buffs look ahead to the rest of the season.
In what could turn out to be one of the closer meets in recent memory, the host Lobos lead the way with 315 points through four of eight races. Colorado is 21 points back with 294 points while Denver is third with 288 points and Utah fourth with 285, making all four teams within 30 points. Alaska Anchorage sits fifth with 229 points.
Freshmen Camilla Brautaset and Maja Solbakken finished fourth and seventh, respectively, in the women’s 5K classical race, easily the best career finish for both of them. Brautaset’s time of 21 minutes, 4.4 seconds, earned her a spot just off the podium. She struggled in the classical race a week ago at CU’s Invitational, taking 23rd. Solbakken was seventh in 21:12.0, less than eight seconds behind Brautaset. Freshman Lucy Newman was also in contention for a top 10 finish but fell off on the second lap a little bit to finish 19th.
“It’s definitely good to see on the women’s side,” CU Nordic coach Bruce Cranmer said. “I thought we could get three in the top 10 for a while there. But it’s great having Camilla in the top four, she said she had never been that high before. And Maja has been working hard with the trainers to figure out some of her breathing issues and that was good to see her up there, as well.”
“The Nordic girls, that was so great to see them recovering and coming on strong,” head coach Richard Rokos added. “It’s encouraging and should give the entire team confidence in the next couple of races.”
In men’s Nordic action, freshman Mads Stroem led the way with a fourth place finish in a time of 33:26.3, just 1.5 seconds ahead of junior Rune Oedegaard in fifth. Oedegaard led most of the first two laps on the three lap, 3.4K loop, set up. Oedegaard feel off a little at the end while Stroem did the opposite, going out easier than he’s accustomed before being able to catch up quite a bit on the rest of the field.
“Mads has probably never skied this hard at this high of an altitude,” Cranmer said. “It’s hard for him, but he skied the last half of the race well after giving up some time early. This is a tricky course, on top of being the highest in terms of altitude, the paths are narrow and there isn’t a ton of snow here right now.”
Junior Arnaud Du Pasquier finished 16th in 34:45.1 with junior Emil Johansson taking 20th in 34:58.8. Senior Andreas Hoye was 25th in 35:49.5 and freshman Jackson Hill rounded out the Buffs competitors in a time of 37:14.0, good for 28th place.
On the alpine side, sophomore Jessica Honkonen finished second in a time of 1:35.94, she has now finished first, second, third and fourth in her four slalom races this season and has firmly established herself as the top slalom seed out of the RMISA for the NCAA Championships. She has been the top collegiate finisher in three of the four races, with the fourth being a controversial situation in Winter Park last week in which she easily could’ve been the race victor had no timing errors taken place.
“Jessica is still fighting for that top spot,” Rokos said. “She got there once and is getting closer all the time.”
Sophomore Thea Grosvold finished ninth in a time of 1:37.49 and she was able to improve four spots from her first to second run after a solid second run. Sophomore Brooke Wales was 11th in a time of 1:37.86, just narrowly missing out on her third top 10 slalom race of the season.
Sophomore Clare Wise finished 19th with an extremely solid second run which saw her move up some 16 spots to earn a top 20 finish after initially not making the top 30 flip after the first run. Freshman Katie Hostetler had a solid first run, starting 56th and moving up 26 spots to make the flip in 30th place after the first run and ending up in 23rd place overall. Junior Shane McLean had some issues on her first run and ended up not starting her second run after the Buffs knew they had three solid finishes for team scoring.
“Katie improved her points today and it’s a sign of her catching up and both Clare and her have both improved dramatically in terms of technique,” Rokos said. “That’s a good sign for both of them moving forward. Shane just had one unfortunate area, it didn’t make much sense for her to ski the second run.”
On the guys side, senior Fletcher McDonald looked primed for his first race victory after having over a half-second lead over the entire field after his first run. The second run course set was one of the hardest Rokos has seen in college racing and led to 16 of the 42 collegiate skiers not finishing the race, and McDonald was one of them, not finishing his second run.
Sophomore Henrik Gunnarsson took seventh in 1:33.56 and sophomore Kasper Hietanen was eighth in 1:33.80 despite also making mistakes in their second runs. Only senior Andreas Haug didn’t make a second run mistake but his first run wasn’t quite up to snuff. He had the second fastest second run in the entire field to move up over 20 positions to finish 1th in 1:34.08.
Sophomore Adam Zika finished 26th in 1:38.17 while sophomore Cameron Smith and freshman Roger Carry joined McDonald in the did not finish category.
“It’s good to see that we are in second place, but we still have a far more in us than we showed today,” Rokos said. “You don’t see a course set like this very often, so I’m expecting that our guys will be better off tomorrow. The alpine guys are a little disappointed with everything, but that may be a good thing for tomorrow.”
Another set of slalom races on the alpine side and the freestyle Nordic races will conclude the RMISA regular season here Saturday.
New Mexico Invitational Team Scores (4 of 8 events)—1. New Mexico 315, 2. Colorado 294; 3. Denver 288; 4. Utah 285; 5. Alaska Anchorage 229; 6. Montana State 176; 7. Westminster 141; 8. Wyoming 68; 9. Colorado Mountain College 0.
Women’s Slalom #1 (27 finishers)— 1. Tonje Sekse, WMC, 1:35.32; 2. Jessica Honkonen, CU, 1:35.94; 3. Mateja Robnik, UNM, 1:35.95; 4. Karoine Myklebust, UNM, 1:35.96; 5. Kristine Haugen, DU, 1:35.98; 6. Chloe Fausa, UU, 1:36.45; 7. Kristiina Rove, UU, 1:36.72; 8. Tianda Carroll, DU, 1:37.24; 9. Thea Grosvold, CU, 1:37.49; 10. Ana Kobal, UU, 1:37.52. Other Colorado Finishers: 11. Brooke Wales, 1:37.86; 19. Clare Wise, 1:41.59; 23. Katie Hostetler, 1:42.92. Did Not Start (2nd Run): Shane McLean.
Men’s Slalom #2 (26 finishers)— 1.Juho-Pekka Penttinen, UNM, 1:32.88; 2. Sean Horner, UNM, 1:33.02; 3. Nikolai Narvestad, WMC, 1:33.16; 4. Niko Harmanen, UAA, 1:33.24; 5. Jonas Nyberg, WMC, 1:33.38; 6. Andy Trow, UU, 1:33.45; 7. Henrik Gunnarsson, CU, 1:33.56; 8. Kasper Hietanen, CU, 1:33.80; 9. Grant Jampolsky, DU, 1:33.83; 10. Benoit Jagot, WMC, 1:34.05. Other Colorado Finishers: 11. Andreas Haug, 1:34.08; 26. Adam Zika, 1:38.17. Did Not Finish (First Run): Cameron Smith. Did Not Finish (Second Run): Fletcher McDonald, Roger Carry.
Women’s Classical (31 finishers)— 1.Sylvia Nordskar, DU, 19:52.3; 2. Eva Severrus, UNM, 20:09.6; 3. Marine Dusser, UAA, 20:28.3 4. Camilla Brautaset, CU, 21:04.4; 5. Anna Svdesen, UU, 21:10.6; 6. Josefin Nilsson, UU, 21:11.1; 7. Maja Solbakken, CU, 21:12.0; 8. Anni Nord, UNM, 21:14.2; 9. Makayla Cappel, DU, 21;15.2; 10. Sloan Storey, UU, 21:15.8. Other CU Finishers: 19. Lucy Newman, 22:01.4.
Men’s Classical (36 finishers)— 1.Lukas Ebner, UAA, 32:58.1; 2. Niklas Persson, UU, 33:08.8; 3. Trygve Markset, DU, 33:21.0; 4. Mads Stroem, CU, 33:26.3; 5. Rune Oedegaard, CU, 33:27.8; 6. Etienne Richard, UAA, 33:39.6; 7. Moritz Madlener, DU, 33:50.8; 8. Mats Resaland, UNM, 33:51.9; 9. Pierre Guedon, DU, 32:52.3; 10. Aku Nikander, UNM, 33;58.7. Other Colorado Finishers: 16. Arnaud Du Pasquier, 34:45.1; 20. Emil Johansson, 34:58.8; 25. Andreas Hoye, 35:49.5; 28. Jackson Hill, 37:14.0.