Denver loses heartbreaker in 15K finale – Pioneer’s Slide to 3rd Place

Denver had a 34.5 point lead over Utah and 42 point advantage over the Colorado Buffalos heading into the final day. The men looked like they delivered the knockout blow in the morning with an overwhelming performance and extended the Pioneer advantage. But, it all came down to the women’s freestyle finale in frigid, windy conditions. Denver faded while CU (1st & 3rd) and Utah (5th & 6th) owned the top 10 finishes.

In a stunning turn of events, Denver’s seemingly insurmountable lead melted as the scores were calculated. DU dropped to third place with 524 points – trailing 2nd place CU by 1 single point. Utah took the title with 541.5 points.    Denver had a great four days in both Alpine and Nordic and looked on track to clinch their 24th national championship – but it slipped from their grasp in a gut wrenching, slow motion 15K cross country women’s finale.

The Pioneers fell behind early and could never make up the time.

The DU men’s side delivered a sterling performance in the morning with all three men in the top eleven:

The women’s finale 15K freestyle looked like a coronation. But sports are won on the field, not on paper.

In the final freestyle event, the DU women’s freestyle trio fell behind early and trailed the charging Buffs and Utes squads who were determined to exert pressure on DU. DU could not respond to the pace. DU’s best finisher was Sylvia Nordskar in 11th. It was an uncharacteristic performance by a solid Denver women’s side for DU.

Still, DU did everything possible to be positioned for the team win heading into the finale.

Congratulations to the Pioneers, men & women, on an outstanding 2017 NCAA Championship effort.

LetsGoDU’s guest columnist Tim Healy will recap the final day and the championship.

8 thoughts on “Denver loses heartbreaker in 15K finale – Pioneer’s Slide to 3rd Place”

  1. This was a stunning collapse that they will all take to their graves. Blowing a 35-point lead on the last day of the meet like that is like blowing a 4 goal lead in the third period of the NCAA finals. Stunning collapse. Just wow…

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  2. Yikes, it was gift wrapped after the men’s race. Kinda shocking. Can’t believe they didn’t win, all they needed was average race from the women. Damn

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  3. In fairness, the women clinched the title for DU on the final day last year. I can’t imagine how they feel. It just wasn’t their day. Overall, big picture, the team had a strong 4 days. Always next year.

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  4. In the NCAA West Regional in Vail just two weeks ago, DU finished 1-2-7 in this same women’s 15K event. Today, in the NCAA Championship they finished 11-27-29 out of 38. Same three skiers! Incredible, unbelievable. Wrong wax? Was everyone suddenly sick? Shocking….

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  5. There was one other time, I can’t remember when, when there was a similar WTF moment in the Championships with our cross country team. The question has to be asked whether there was a coaching screw up by the Nordic coach. Honestly, I will not be too pleased if they blame it on the conditions. Two other Western teams handled them just fine. I would like to see Stewart take some responsibility for this one. The result is pretty unfathomable, especially with the way the men’s team put the championship in the bag this morning.

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  6. From the DU Press Release quoting Nordic Coach Dave Stewart:

    “The women were handed a tough task today, with a lead in the final event but two very strong teams in Utah and Colorado right behind them and skiing with nothing to lose. Each of our women fought hard and gave it 100%, but Utah and CU were just too strong and suddenly there were too many points to make up and not enough gas left in the tank. The extreme cold, wind and icy, fast conditions did not play to our women’s strengths, but that is the sport.

    “We have certainly benefited in the past from conditions that suited us better to help us win championships, but we did everything we could to maximize our performances this year. We simply fell a bit short of our goal.”

    Sounds to me like he’s blaming the conditions…

    Anyway, the ‘WTF’ question needs to be asked…How does a same skier 1-2-7 NCAA Regional Performance translate to a 11-27-29 performance in just two weeks, when most of the people above them in the NCAA Championships were below them two weeks ago?

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  7. Yes…and the whole “CU and Utah skiing with nothing to lose” doesn’t hold water, either. Sure, DU was the hunted team. But the fact that six other skiers in the field were skiing with motivation, doesn’t explain a 27th and 29th place showing, from what is supposed to be the best collegiate ski team in the country. DU didn’t need to beat the competition in the last race. In fact, let Utah and CU get the podium. They just needed to avoid a disastrous result, and they didn’t. (Made worse, by the fact that one of our same skiers heroically won the same event last year!) Conditions and motivation from two other teams don’t explain a thing, unless DU was utterly unprepared for the conditions…which in itself would be a weird explanation, since the men kicked ass in those conditions less than two hours prior. After reading Stewart’s explanation, the WTF remains. I don’t blame the women or the team. Blame has to sit with Dave Stewart for this one.

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