NCAA Championships Day 2: Pioneers cling to fragile title hopes

“Nothing is over until we decide it is!” – Bluto, Animal House

Cynics will say, “No chance”. But remember 2017 when the Pioneers led by 34.5 points going into the final day and finished third? With two days remaining and a 31 point deficit faced by the Pioneers, Denver is still within striking distance of this year’s NCAA Skiing Championship.

The men’s and women’s Giant Slalom was featured Thursday morning in Stowe, Vermont. The Pioneers rebounded from the prior day’s Nordic performance with top 10 finishes in both the men’s and women’s sides. Denver (228 points) now sits in 4th place. Dartmouth leads the field with 259 points on the strength of a powerful women’s Giant Slalom finish by all three of their team members. Denver trails Vermont by 17 points and Utah by 24 points.

The DU women started the day in the first run and held  2nd and 3rd places at the break. Denver slipped several places during the second run and Tuva Norby fell to 5th place with Andrea Komsic settling into 10th. Surprisingly, DU’s defending national champion, Amelia Smart, trailed her teammates in 22nd place. I expect Smart to unleash her frustration during Saturday’s slalom finale.

On the men’s side, Denver men were in 9th and 10th after the first run, clinging to the top 10 All-American slots.  The men actually improved their place on the second run and nailed down 2nd (Simon Fournier) and 5th place (Tobias Kogler). DU’s Jett Seymour finished 18th. Of note, both Montana State and the University of Colorado had skiers that went off course – a critical error for the team score for both programs.

The Classical Nordic men’s 20k and women’s 15k events are scheduled for tomorrow morning. Denver’s Nordic skiers have a chance to redeem their Day 1 finishes and classical races are traditionally much stronger for DU. Since there is a mass start, DU can use everyone on the team to pace and pick-off other team leaders. I expect a stinger performance tomorrow by the Nordic team. That sets up Denver’s outstanding veteran Alpine men’s and women’s teams in Slalom, their strongest event, for the final day.

And, the goals for Day 3? First, try to advance from 4th into the top 3. Second, whittle away at the lead, closing the gap 4-7 points on the leader would set up the Pioneers for the final day of competition.

No doubt, it is definitely an uphill battle to claim the title but don’t count the Pioneers out quite yet.

And, a special shout out to a true Pioneer – Eivind Kvaale. He finished 11th in Wednesdays 10 K Nordic race. During the event, he had to stop on course for several minutes because of a heart arrhythmia condition and he still had a solid finish for the Pios. That is the Pioneering spirit!

Article special to LetsGoDU by Denver Ski Team Insider Tim Healy