I can’t believe it’s here already – the NCAA Skiing Championships in Park City Mountain Resort in Park City and Soldier Hollow Nordic Center in Midway, Utah. The competition begins tomorrow – Giant Slalom was moved from today to tomorrow due to slope conditions – through March 12th and I expect our Denver Pioneers to be in the thick of it – even though they will be in rival Utah’s territory!
Denver will be one of only five schools to field a complete 12-person team so that automatically narrows the number of schools vying for the team championship. DU seems to always come up big in western venues and this year should be no different so it should prove to be a dramatic four days.
So how does Denver look going into the championships? Denver finished second at the RMISA Championships in Steamboat Springs ending on February 26th. DU compiled 570 points over the four days of competition, coming 37.5 ahead of third-place CU and 120 behind Utah. Once again, I expect that a school from RMISA will win the team title again this season. And, the Utes will be in familiar territory. Denver needs a big effort to top home-slope advantage and bring our 25th title back to Denver. As you may recall, Denver won it all in 2018 at Stowe Vermont. Since that time, the Utes have won two titles and a Covid cancellation on the final day of competition in 2020 may have taken away a great opportunity for the Pioneers to win the team hardware as well.
If we assume Utah as DU’s main competitor (yes, CU is ALWAYS a threat, too), Utah are strong in the Nordic events (cross country – classical and freestyle) and men’s Alpine but not as great in other areas. DU is especially strong this season in women’s Alpine (slalom, giant slalom) and men’s Nordic. If Denver can dominate in their areas of strength, they should easily be in the mix for the national title. The wild card is individual standouts from other schools who jump up in the standings in between the top contenders to create separation on the scoresheet.
DU’s Alpine coach Joonas Rasanen told me, “The team is healthy and looking good and confident going into nationals. Excited to have Katie (Hensien) back from her Olympic performance. She is feeling great and excited to rejoin the team after her busy month in Beijing and NorAm’s”. And the Nordic side of DU’s team has improved this season so Denver may be able to pick up points that they may not have scored in the past several seasons. Let’s hope that is the case because we will need every point we can score and maybe a little luck, too.
March 10 Live Results: Women’s GS | Men’s GS
Women’s Classic | Men’s Classic
March 11 Live Results: Men’s Slalom | Women’s Slalom
March 12 Live Results: Men’s Freestyle | Women’s Freestyle
Denver has a great mix of talent and experience going to the 2022 NCAA Championships. Here they are –
Here is the lineup for Denver in Utah: Women’s Alpine will be run by Katie Hensien (her first NCAA Championships), Eleri Smart (Sister of Amelia, one of Denver’s greatest Alpine skiers), and Galena Wardle. Men’s Alpine will be run by Tobias Kogler (2020 NCAA Champion), Cooper Cornelius (1st NCAA Championships. Top 10 in every Giant Slalom this season) and Simon Fournier. Women’s Nordic will be run by Vera Norli, Hanna Ray and Emma Larsson. Men’s Nordic will be run by Bernhard Flaschberger (4 victories this season), Andreas Kirkeng (1st NCAA Championships) and Ole Marius Kirkeng (Five Top 10 results this season).
I’ll keep you updated on the team’s progress at the end of each day. Go DU and see you on the slopes!
Photo courtesy of KSL Sports