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Colorado Skiers Claim 1991 National Championship
JEREMY RANCH, UTAH--- A decade-long drought ended here Saturday, as the University of Colorado ski team won its first NCAA Championship since 1982. The Buffaloes soundly defeated defending national champion Vermont and host Utah to claim the national title.
Colorado head coach Richard Rokos is the fourth coach to lead CU to a national title, but he is the only one to do it his first season. It’s Colorado’s 13th overall title in skiing, the first since the men’s and women’s programs were combined in 1983. It’s the school’s 14th in its athletic history, as the Buffs’ national championship in football earlier this year makes Colorado the first NCAA school this season to win team championships in two sports (three schools, Stanford, Texas, and Louisiana State, did it in 1989-90).
The Buffs outpointed Vermont, 713-682, as the Catamounts enjoyed a fine day in the classical Nordic races to partially close a 78-point gap that Colorado enjoyed after three days of competition. With various changes in the weather all day long (from snowfall to sunshine and back-and-forth), most skiers were affected in one way or another depending on the kind of wax used for their skis. Fortunately for the Buffs, Anette Skjolden finished third in the women’s 15-kilometer race with Jeff Graves taking 10th in the men’s 20K event to help guarantee a CU victory.
“The whole team is really in good spirits,” CU head coach Richard Rokos said. “If Sal Aunese helped the football team, then Laura Flood helped us. We’re coming up on the one year anniversary of her death, and I think a lot of people realized there are more values in life. The kids are a lot more attentive to each other, and that has helped us.” Flood was a sophomore on the CU ski team when she was tragically killed last April 3 in a skiing accident at Lake Eldora (Sal Aunese was the CU quarterback who died of cancer in Sept., 1989, and his case was well documented in helping the CU football team to an 11-1 record that 1989 season).
“I think the lead after the slalom was fairly considerable,” Rokos added. “It gave me a good night’s sleep. Mike (Devecka) was in charge of today’s strategy, and was obviously aiming for the best finish possible. Unfortunately we missed the wax in this race.” With the varying weather, the wrong kind of wax was used in the girl’s race, making Skjolden’s finish that much more amazing. “We would have finished better with a different wax,” Rokos added. “I saw the kids on the course, and they were struggling.”
“It’s exciting and nice to have two of them,” Rokos said of the national titles in both skiing and football. I didn’t count on it, but we’ve been consistent in our races all year in the west, and not knowing what to expect from the eastern schools left it wide open coming on.”
Skjolden collapsed at the end of her race due to pure exhaustion, but she was elated with her third place finish. “I’m glad I finished third,” she said. “I used so much power on the hills and to glide. I was surprised I caught up to the people in front. It really helped me to see the people again (ahead of me), catch them and then pass them.” Skjolden was in 10th place after five kilometers, moved into fifth at the 10K mark and eventually finished with a 1:09:06.2 time, just under two minutes behind Vermont’s Laura Wilson (1:07:15.1). The Catamounts’ Selma Lie took second (1:08:34.5), and with UVM ‘s Nina Hamilton in seventh place, Colorado’s lead shrunk from 78 to 42 points prior to the meet’s last event, the men’s 20K.
“We missed on the wax,” Skjolden said. On the first hill, we stood totally still, everybody was passing. I saw that Kari (Bendtal) had trouble, too. We went out to the side and skied over each other’s skis to get some of the wax off. That helped and from then on, things were okay. When I think back on it, I’m really happy that I took third place.”
Bendtal, skiing in her last race as a Buff, finished 22nd, with Liz Stegall taking 26th in her Colorado finale. Missy Mandery rounded out the ladies with a 36th place finish.
Graves’ 10th place finish highlighted the men’s efforts, with Bjorn Svensson (the medalist in the 10K freestyle event Thursday) finishing 11th, Bjorn Laukli 16th and Travis Brown 22nd.
“We thought we had it with our special technique of roughing up the base,” Graves said. “The skis felt good before the race, but then it warmed up a bit, so it was hard to get a kick. This was a real hard race to wax for. I felt a little bit flat, not really energetic, but it was enough, I guess. We started to panic when we saw that the girls’ wax wasn’t working. Even though today wasn’t that good, we would have had to have a catastrophic finish to lose the lead. Even on a bad day, we seem to be strong.”
“We hung in there, even with the difficult conditions,” Svensson said. “I was just thinking about keeping up, and not go too hard so I couldn’t finish. I saw three Vermont guys all the time, two just ahead of me, and one behind me. So I was pretty sure that our lead was all right. Our main goal today was to win the whole thing.”
Nine Colorado skiers earned first-team All-America honors, led by three on the men’s nordic team (Svensson, Graves, and Laukli). Skjolden earned the lone honor by the women’s cross country team (though Bendtal and Stegall were second team, along with the men’s Travis Brown). On the alpine side, Tony Standteiner and Eric Archer were named to the first team (Mike Trueblood earned second-team), and Andreja Rojs, Hana Pochobradska and Heidi Hager all earned first team honors for the women (with Jennifer Barrett a second team selection). All-in-all, 14 of the 16 skiers Colorado had participating in this year’s NCAA meet earned some kind of All-American recognition.
In another note, it was announced publicly Saturday that Colorado will host the 1993 NCAA Championships, at a site yet to be determined. New Hampshire will host next winter’s championship meet.
Final Team Standings
Men’s 20-Kilometer Classical Race: 1. Stig Mattson, UAA, 1:11:55.7; 2. Luke Bodensteiner, Utah, 1:13:04.5; 3. Peter Rune, UNM, 1:13:46.6; 4. Ole Evensen, Utah, 1:14:40.8; 5. John Farra, Utah, 1:14:54.9; 6. Tron Nystad, UVM, 1:15:21.7; 7. Sten Seeman, UVM, 1:15:27.7; 8. Dan Fleener, UAA, 1:15:48.2; 9. Tuomo Latua-Koskold, UAA, 1:16:28.3; 10. Jeff Graves, CU, 1:16:53.7. Other CU Finishers: 11. Bjorn Svensson, 1:16:53.7; 16: Bjorn Laukli, 1:18:16.1; 22. Travis Brown, 1:19:39.3.
Women’s 15-Kilometer Classical Race: 1. Laura Wilson, UVM, 1:07:15.1; 2. Selma Lie, UVM, 1:08:34.5; 3. Anette Skjolden, CU, 1:09:06.2; 4.Christie Boggs, Wyo., 1:09:11.8; 5. Kristie Hoel, Wyo., 1:09:19.9; 6. Venka Hatleberg, Utah, 1:09:51.8; 7. Nina Hamilton, UVM, 1:09:55.4; 8. Karla Stegall, Wyo., 1:10:10.5; 9. Lindley Hall, Williams, 1:10:17.1; 10. Anne Kari Aas, Utah, 1:10:24.8 Other CU Finishers: 22. Kari Bendtal, 1:12:12.5; 26. Liz Stegall, 1:12:36.1; 36. Missy Mandery, 1:19:12.9.
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