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WINTER PARK – The defending national champion University of Colorado ski team continued its early season battle with Utah and remained in second place here at the University of Denver Invitational as the alpine portion of the meet came to a close here Sunday.  

Utah maintained about the exact same lead it had entering the day, stretching it from 21 to 27 points, over the Buffaloes, and it’s almost the exact same deficit the Buffaloes faced after alpine events concluded in last week’s CU Invitational.  

Utah leads the way with 456 points while the Buffaloes are 27 points behind at 429.  Host Denver is third with 374 points, just ahead of New Mexico (361), Alaska Anchorage (347) and Rocky Mountain Intercollegiate Ski Association associate member Westminster College (340). 

Both slalom teams for the Buffaloes scored the exact same number of points for the team Sunday – 105 in each race – and the Buffs outscored Utah by 15 on the men’s side but were outscored by the Utes by 21 on the women’s side.  After the alpine events in the CU Invitational, Utah held a 29 point lead over Colorado, 469-440, just two points different than the current standings at the same point in the DU Invitational.  

Both teams got to 105 points in vastly different ways.  Where Saturday’s giant slalom races saw CU’s youth shine with freshmen leading the way in both cases, Sunday the veterans proved to be the difference makers.  

On the men’s side, all five of the Buffs were in the top 12 after the first run and finished with four skiers in the top 13 after the second run.  Sophomore Fletcher McDonald was CU’s highest finisher in fifth place in a time of 1:27.73 for the second straight slalom meet despite slipping out of the super seed top seven.  

Westminster College’s Petter Brenna won the race in a time of 1:26.98, edging out Denver freshman Trevor Philp in the second run.  Phelp finished with a time of 1:27.14 while New Mexico’s Armin Triendl also hit the podium in a time of 1:27.39.  Denver’s Espen Lysdahl finished fourth in a time of 1:27.55 while McDonald rounded out the top five.   He started 10th and his main goal was to earn his way back into the mix at the top of the seed list, and he did just that. 

“I definitely wanted to be back in the super seed for sure, that helps so much,” McDonald said. “The course was good, there was a solid groove to use so we were able to generate some speed and hold our own even though I was running a little further back.”
Junior Max Lamb also brought home a top 10 finish, taking seventh in a time of 1:28.29 while freshman Adam Zika moved all the way from a start of 31st to finish ninth in a time of 1:28.38.  Senior Taggart Spenst finished 13th in a time of 1:28.93.  Zika’s results should insert him into the mix for a super seed spot, as well.  

“The conditions were pretty good so we were able to push on it a little bit harder,” Lamb said. “You have to attack but also ski smart.  Everybody’s slalom is really good, so we can all push a little harder there.”

Sophomore Andreas Haug, who was in sixth place after the first run, did not finish after his ski fell off at the start of his second run.  

“Overall the guys had a good race,” CU head coach Richard Rokos said. “Andreas lost his ski and that’s out of his control, just one of those things that happens sometimes.  He has shown a lot of improvement in GS and has been skiing well in slalom as well, so hopefully things come together for him.”

“I was a little disappointed in the women’s side,” Rokos continued. “Erika (Ghent) and Katie (Hartman) were the only standouts today.  It is the second straight race they have struggled, and today was extra tough because it’s one of the friendliest hills we will see all season.  During this time off we will work on our consistency and training.”

Ghent fell out of the super seed rankings and started the race in the 21st position.  She amazingly recorded the fourth fastest first run in the field despite that start position and then ran the second fastest second run to finish runner up.

“I knew that I had to finish, but I also wanted to finish fast,” Ghent said. “I took it back a notch from how I skied in Breckenridge (at the CU Invitational) and had a consistent run.  Sometimes if I try too hard I do stupid things, for me taking it back a notch it just being solid.”

“For Erika it was a good comeback, not by her ability but by her points and starting position,” Rokos continued. “Coming from a starting position in the 20s it is nearly impossible to win a race and she almost did just that.”

Ghent’s time of 1:29.70 was still well behind Utah’s Julie Bordeau, who won both runs to finish almost a second-and-a-half ahead of the field in a time of 1:28.43.  New Mexico’s Stefanie Demetz was third in a time of 1:30.45 while Utah’s Tii-Maria Romar (1:30.64) and Westminster College’s Caroline Pernet (1:30.89) rounded out the top five. 

Hartman started in the 10th position and had the sixth-fastest time in both runs to finish sixth overall in a time of 1:31.02.  She is still returning to top form in slalom action but is the only CU women’s skier with two solid slalom finishes in the first two races of the season. 

“Katie needed to finish and gain some confidence,” Rokos said. “She’s had some fast runs and sometimes didn’t finish, but now she can build on this.  We have three weeks before Alaska and I think she will even get better as the season progresses.”

“My slalom is getting better every day,” Hartman said. “I’m still struggling to get my timing back and most slalom days is when my knee hurts the most, so I’m fighting through that still.  We had a bit of a down day on the women’s side but Erika has an unbelievable day.  It will be good to get a bit of a break here and for the most part we’re skiing well so we’ll be excited for Alaska.”

Jenny Allen was the final CU finisher on the women’s side, brining home 21st place in a time of 1:37.94.  Freshman Shane McLean, who was 17th after a little mistake on the first run, did not finish the second run.  The same thing happened to Khyla Burrows, who had moved up 20 spots from her starting position of 48 to have the 28th fastest first run, but she also didn’t finish her first run.

Senior Carolina Nordh, who finished fifth in the slalom at the CU Invitational, had to hike her first run and after Allen finished safely for the Buffaloes in the second race, she did not attempt a second run.  

The DU Invitational will conclude with Nordic action next week at Devil’s Thumb Ranch, in Tabernash, Colo., not too far from Winter Park.  Action will take place there on Friday and Saturday.  

“We’re not leaving a big margin of error for the Nordic squad,” Rokos said. “But we took care of everybody except Utah, and they are in striking distance for them.  Let’s hope they can take care of Utah next weekend.”

After that, the next action for all teams will be a dual meet in Alaska from Feb. 4-11.  There will be a total of 16 races over that week comprising both the Alaska Anchorage Invitational and the Seawolf Invitational.  

Since the beginning of the CU Invitational 10 days ago, the alpine teams have raced seven of those 10 days.  They will all have three-and-a-half weeks off as alpine action won’t begin in Alaska until Feb. 8.  

“We have a lot of catching up to do and we’ll do some physical training,” Rokos said. “It’s good to have this block of the season behind us.  We didn’t finish bad but now quite as high as I would’ve liked.”  

“This has been a long haul,” Hartman said of the last 10 days. “I think we’re all tired.  We have a day off tomorrow and start school on Tuesday.  I’m excited to get back to Alaska, I did well there last time, but this time off will help a lot.”

“I’m excited to get back into school and get a little break from skiing,” Lamb said. “I have been struggled a little in GS so I need to get some good training in, and it will be nice to stop living out of a suitcase for a while.”

DU Invitational Team Scores (4 events)—1. Utah 456; 2. Colorado 429; 3. Denver 374; 4. New Mexico 361; 5. Alaska Anchorage 347; 6. Westminster College 340; 7. Montana State 286; 8. Colorado Mountain College 286. 

Men’s Slalom (38 Collegiate Finishers)—1. Petter Brenna, WMC, 1:26.98; 2. Trevor Philp, DU, 1:27.14; 3. Armin Triendl, UNM, 1:27.39; 4. Espen Lysdahl, DU, 1:27.55; 5. Fletcher McDonald, CU, 1:27.73; 6. Juho-Pekka Penttinen, UNM, 1:28.24; 7. Max Lamb, CU, 1:28.29; 8. Torjus Krogdahl, UU, 1:28.31; 9. Adam Zika, CU, 1:28.31; 10. Ryan Wilson, UU, 1:28.45. Other CU Skiers: 13. Taggart Spenst, 1:28.93; Andreas Haug (DNF). 

Women’s Slalom (29 Collegiate Finishers)—1. Julie Bordeau, UU, 1:28.43; 2. Erika Ghent, CU, 1:29.70; 3. Stefanie Demetz, UNM, 1:30.45; 4. Tii-Maria Romar, UU, 1:30.64; 5. Caroline Pernet, WMC, 1:30.89; 6. Katie Hartman, CU, 1:31.02; 7. Anna Kocken, UU, 1:31.04; 8. Mary Rachel Hostettler, UNM, 1:31.38; 9. Devin Delaney, DU, 1:31.47; 10. Stephanie Irwin, MSU, 1:32.66. Other CU Skiers: 21. Jenny Allen, 1:37.94; Caroline Nordh (DNF); Shane McLean (DNF); Khyla Burrows (DNF).