Tim Healy is a regular contributor to LetsGoDU on collegiate skiing.
The NCAA championships started today in Franconia, N.H.. Should I start with the good news or bad news first?
O.k., let’s begin with the good news.
DU’s Tobias Kogler finished second in the giant slalom for the DU men, narrowly missing out to Mikkel Solbakken from Westminster College for the top spot. I was hoping Tobias would make this two national championships in a row but it always comes down to tenths of a second and he barely missed out. Tobias became an All-American (again) with his finish. DU’s Simon Fournier finished 14th and Tristan Lane finished 24th.
Kogler Runner Up, Earns First Team All-American Status in Giant Slalom at NCAA Championships
— Denver Skiing (@DU_Skiing) March 10, 2021
And the bad news…
The day went a bit undexpectedly for the DU women – the strength of the team. Arch-enemies, CU, got a surprise 1-2 finish by Cassidy Gray and Stef Fleckenstein in the women’s giant slalom. Their strong finishes put CU in third place (119 points) for the title chase. DU’s Reece Bell finished a distant 15th, Amelia Smart finished 17th and her sister Eleri took 25th.
It is important to remember, two of the top DU alpine skiers (Katie Hensien and freshman Nora Brand) are not on team this season. Hensien due to Covid concerns and racing World Cups for USA and Brand due to injury. Disappointing but understandable in both cases.
Two surprise squads, Montana State and Westminster are tied for the lead with 137 points. Denver sits in fifth place in the overall team standings. Westminster College doesn’t field a Nordic team so expect DU to gain ground on the Griffins. I’d epect Montana State to fall back on the Nordic side as well against DU.
So what’s ahead?
The classic Nordic races will take place on Thursday, with slalom on Friday and freestyle Nordic races on Saturday. It is going to be warm on Thursday for the Nordic events with a balmy high of 56 so waxes and team strategy will play a big role. This is not DU’s strength but unpredictable weather may play into the under-dogs hands. Oh, and DU will also be missing outstanding Nordic skier sophomore Evelinna Piippo who out this season due to injuries.
Another thing to remember about this year’s NCAA championships is that many of the strongest teams from the east will not be skiing due to covid. As a result, take a historically strong Dartmouth team and Middlebury and Colby College off the watch list. Look for a team from the west to win the team championship.
This thing is still wide open to a number of teams but DU needs to put a dent in the competition Thursday if they are to be in the hunt for team honors. You gotta believe, right?
As always, Go DU!
Top photo courtesy of Denver Athletics