ELDORA – The host University of Colorado ski team is in second place just seven points out of the lead after the alpine portion of the Spencer James Nelson Memorial Invitational, as the Buffaloes won the women’s slalom race and finished second in the men’s race here at Eldora Mountain Resort.
CU racked up 226 points in the two races, well outscoring the two teams ahead of the Buffs headed into the day. CU was 22 points behind New Mexico and outscored the Lobos by 38 to move into second place. The first day leader, Denver, held a 49½-point lead over the Buffs and CU outscored the Pioneers by 43 points to get back in the race.
“It was a little expected because slalom has been our better event lately,” CU head coach Richard Rokos said. “Everybody stepped up. Especially the guys, they redeemed themselves a little bit and the women stayed even with yesterday.”
Through four events, Denver leads with 423½ points followed by Colorado with 417 and New Mexico is third with 401 points. There is then a 90 point buffer before fourth place as Alaska Anchorage has 311 points with Montana State sitting fifth with 300½ points. 2012 RMISA Champion Utah had a rough day and sits in sixth place with 288 points while associate members Westminster College (259) and Colorado Mountain College (20) round out the team scoring.
“It was really good today,” freshman Brooke Wales said. “As a team we showed up solidly, both men and women. I think we have a really strong team and this will help us going into the rest of the season.”
The men were on tap first and it turned into a three-team race between the Buffs, Denver and New Mexico, as all three finished within four points of each other. Denver won the race with 120 points while the Buffs took second with 117 and the Lobos third with 116 points.
Junior Fletcher McDonald and freshman Henrik Gunnarsson both impressed, finishing second and fourth, respectively. McDonald’s finish is a career best and the first time he’s reached the podium. He led the field after the first run and finished with a two-run time of 1:46.24.
“It was a good day, much better than yesterday,” McDonald said. “The first run I took advantage of my starting position (second) and in the second run I just tried to ski in the groove and stay on my feet and get a strong finish for both the team and myself.”
Slalom is Gunnarsson’s stronger discipline and he proved it by finishing just off the podium in fourth place after securing a starting position of 16th. Despite the later start, he had the fourth-best first run time and maintained his position in the second run with a total time of 1:47.14.
“The first run could have been better,” Gunnarsson said. “But I got to the finish. The second run, I could’ve gone faster on the flat parts, but overall it was good skiing. It was good for the team for (the men) to respond today.”
“Henrik is a great skier and he proved that he can be in the mix and probably still go even faster,” Rokos said. “I think he was holding back a little bit because of the team scoring, but it’s a big confidence booster. The guys from Europe aren’t used to this kind of snow, it’s wet and icy back home, but he’s adjusting nicely.”
Junior Andreas Haug finished just outside the top 10 with an 11th place finish in a time of 1:49.33 while freshmen Cameron Smith and Kasper Hietenan earned top 20 finishes, both significantly higher than their starting positions. Smith was seeded 41st in the race and finished 18th in a time of 1:58.81 while Hietenan started 31st and finished 19th (1:59.45).
Senior Max Lamb, also a strong slalom skier as evidence by his starting position of first, had to hike on his first run and he finished 24th with a time of 2:25.52.
On the women’s side, the Buffs torched the field as one of the few teams that finished three scorers. Just 20 collegiate racers finished the race and with New Mexico and Denver all failing to score three skiers and the Buffs made up a lot of ground on those teams. CU won the race with 109 points with Alaska Anchorage taking second with 91 and Montana State third with 81, the only three teams to finish three scoring skiers. New Mexico finished the race with 72 points and the Pioneers with 63.
Freshman Jessica Honkonen earned a podium appearance with a third place finish in a time of 1:58.65, just behind second place Ana Kobal from Utah (1:58.32) and almost two seconds ahead of fourth place. Like Gunnarsson, her stronger event is slalom and having never raced in college starting in 16th, she immediately put herself in contention by securing the second fastest first run in the field. She then had the seventh-fastest second run to maintain her podium appearance.
“I’m pleased with the result, but with the ski season still just beginning, I have high hopes that I will still go faster,” Honkonen said. “This course was super long and it felt like it would never end. You just can’t stop until you see the finish line. The snow was perfect, the course was manageable.”
Freshman Thea Grosvold started in 19th place and brought home a top 10 finish, taking seventh by running the 11th-best time in both the first and second runs for a total time of 2:02.56.
“Jessica and Thea both had great results today, especially given the fact both are coming off big injuries,” Rokos said. “Today was a great confidence booster for them. It’s a tough hill, a tough race; I think it’s the longest slalom course on the college circuit. They both proved they are coming back strong from injury and will only get better.”
Wales, whose specialty is giant slalom, had an impressive 10th place finish despite starting 28th in the field. Wales took second in both GS races earlier in the week.
“Brooke is our new hero,” Rokos said. “Slalom is not her best event, not that she can’t ski it, she just hasn’t trained that much. She’s a speed skier, giant slalom is her dominating event, but she’s coming along nicely in slalom.”
“I’m really happy with a top 10 finish,” Wales said. “Slalom is something I have had to work a lot harder at than GS. I had a pretty big mistake in the first run, I stopped on a hairpin turn on the flats, but I had a good second run.”
The rest of CU’s women fell on some bad luck, as freshman Clare Wise and senior Khyla Burrows both were disqualified in the first run and sophomore Shane McLean did not finish the second run after hiking in her first run.
“This is one of the toughest venues we will run this season,” Rokos said. “Having it behind us and still in contention and good standing boosts our confidence. Shane is like lightening out there, and sometimes that haunts her, especially on this hill. Winter Park in many ways is an easier hill; it doesn’t have all the terrain changes that this hill does.”
Attention in the CU Invitational now turns its attention to Steamboat Springs where the Nordic squads will open the 2013 season with freestyle races Saturday and classic races Sunday there at Howelsen Hill.
“This is our home meet,” Rokos said. “Hopefully the Nordic team will finish the job for us.”
The alpine teams, meanwhile, will get the Denver Invitational underway with a RMISA Giant Slalom Qualifier on Friday, followed by another GS Saturday and slalom on Sunday in Winter Park.
“We had to perform today and that will help our confidence,” McDonald said. “Now we just have to carry it over to Winter Park.”
CU Invitational/Spencer James Nelson Memorial Team Scores (4 events)-1. Denver 423½; 2. Colorado 417; 3. New Mexico 401; 4. Alaska Anchorage 311; 5. Montana State 300½; 6. Utah 288; 7. Westminster College 259, 8. Colorado Mountain College 20.
Women’s Slalom (20 collegiate finishers)- 1. Anna Goodman, WMC, 1:54.88; 2. Ana Kobal, UU, 1:58.32; 3. Jessica Honkonen, CU, 1:58.65; 4. Mary Rachel Hostetter, UNM, 2:00.46; 5. Devin Delaney, DU, 2:00.61; 6. Kayla Fry, UAA, 2:00.82; 7. Thea Grosvold, CU, 2:02.56; 8. Kristiina Rove, UU, 2:02.92; 9. Courtney Altringer, UNM, 2:03.80; 10. Brooke Wales, CU, 2:04.38; 11. Anna Berecz, UAA, 2:04.63; 12. Emily Danza, MSU, 2:05.18; 13. Terra Moran, MSU, 2:06.08; 14. Kelly McBroom, MSU, 2:07.93; 15. Marissa Riopelle, MSU, 2:08.05; 16. *Jacqueline Lebel, MSU, 2:09.55; 17. Ida Bjerka, UAA, 2:10.95; 18. Vanessa Berther, UAA, 2:16.50; 19. Tianda Carroll, DU, 2:23.20; 20. *Bridget French, DU, 2:29.97. Did Not Start (1st Run) Lindsay Cone, DU. Did Not Finish (1st Run): Stephanie Irwin, MSU; Maria Elena Rizzieri, DU; Kate Williams, UNM; A.C. Brusletto, UNM; Tonje Sekse, WMC; Natalie Knowles, DU; *Tenaya Driller, MSU; Christina Rennie, CMC; Celia Ferguson, CMC. Disqualified (1st Run): Clare Wise, CU (G52); Khyla Burrows, CU (G37); Jamie DuPratt, UU (G52). Did Not Finish (2nd Run): Kristine Haugen, DU; *Teagen Palmer, DU; Shane McLean, CU.
Men’s Slalom (24 collegiate finishers)- 1. Joonas Rasanen, UNM, 1:46.07; 2. Fletcher McDonald, CU, 1:46.24; 3. Espen Lysdahl, DU, 1:46.58; 4. Henrik Gunnarson, CU, 1:47.14; 5. Trevor Philp, DU, 1:47.23; 6. Max Marno, DU, 1:47.53; 7. Sean Horner, UNM, 1:48.40; 8. Nikolai Narvestad, WMC, 1:48.43; 9. Juko-Pekka Penttinen, UNM, 1:48.44; 10. Sam Monsen, MSU, 1:48.48; 11. Andreas Haug, CU, 1:49.33; 12. Cam Brewington, UAA, 1:49.75; 13. David Senoner, WMC, 1:51.04; 14. Michael Mackie, MSU, 1:51.28; 15. James Schindler, UAA, 1:52.00; 16. Simon Ruud, WMC, 1:54.38; 17. Michael Radford, MSU, 1:55.90; 18. Cameron Smith, CU, 1:58.81; 19. Kasper Hietanen, CU, 1:59.45; 20. Eian Sandvik, UU, 2:03.77; 21. Ryan McConnell, MSU, 2:06.21; 22. Charlie Reynolds, DU, 2:06.39; 23. Kitt Flowers, DU, 2:23.22; 24. Max Lamb, CU, 2:25.52. Did Not Finish (1st Run): Armin Trinendl, UNM; Chris Acosta, UNM;Andreas Adde, UAA; Even Winquist, WMC; *Taylor Shiffrin, DU; Niko Harmanen, UAA; Chris Kollenborg, UAA; Mark Miller, UNM; Andy Trow, UU; Tomotej Hribar, UU; *Chriss Salbu, UNM; *Michael Bansmer, UNM; David Herzog, WMC; David Owsley, MSU; Jeremy Elliott, UU; Will Cutler, CMC. Disqualified (1st Run): *Grant Jampolsky, DU (G55); Benoit Jagot, WMC (G54). Did Not Finish (2nd Run): Cedrik Gagnon, UAA; Ryan Wilson, UU. Disqualified (2nd Run): Luke Laidlaw, DU.