Today was a bluebird day at Park City Mountain Resort for the NCAA Ski Championships. A chilly morning transformed into a sunny day, ten degrees warmer than yesterday, and 30 degrees with no wind. A perfect day for ski racing! Going into men’s and women’s slalom, this had to be ‘moving day’ for third-place Denver to make up ground on second-place Colorado’s (13.0 points) and first-place Utah (37.5 lead).
Unfortunately, it was just not DU’s day, despite some outstanding individual performances.
Just like the giant slalom (GS) event, slalom competitors are judged on cumulative time for two runs. The top teams want to avoid missed gates and DNF’s in slalom, preferring solid scores/points for all three of their skiers for team points. So, the other individual schools and teams with nothing to lose can blast the course in search of a podium or All-American designation (Top-10 finish). Anything can happen and often does at the NCAA Championships. Bottom line, DU had to be fast and error-free with all six of their skiers finishing high today and that did not happen.
The DU men had a tough first slalom run with Cooper Cornelius finishing second-to-last following an error on course. Utah had two skiers in the Top 10 and all three CU skiers were in the top 15. Basically, to get back in the hunt, DU needed Simon Fournier (11th) and Tobias Kogler (17th) to move into the top ten after their second run – nearly an impossible task. DU’s women fared better on their first run. DU Olympian Katie Hensien smoked the field and sat in first place after round one. Eleri Smart rebounded from GS with a fine run and stood in 8th. Galena Wardle was in 15th place. Denver was poised to pick up points on both Utah and CU in women’s slalom heading into the second run.
In the second men’s run, Utah put the hammer down with two skiers in the Top 10. Vermont secured first and third and passed DU in overall points. CU also placed two of their skiers in the Top 10. Denver was led by Simon Fournier who picked up an additional seven places on his second run to finish 4th – AMAZING! DU’s Tobias Kogler moved up four places to 13th and Cooper Cornelius landed in 26th following struggles from his first run. In this event, DU gave up 24 points to Utah, 8.5 points to CU and even fell behind Vermont in the overall team standings. This, clearly, was not the start DU needed to close the gap!
Women’s slalom ended the day and was Denver’s last Alpine chance to close the gap on the three teams ahead to include CU, the University of Vermont and, of course, Utah. Hensien held on to first place in her final run, Wardle finished 13th and Smart had a tough run and finished 19th. It was a solid showing but not what DU needed to make a big move. However, DU did pick up 16.5 points on Vermont, 26 points on CU and 29 points on Utah. At the end of the day, Denver had some outstanding individual performances but needed all six skiers in the top 10 to make a big move today.
Denver passed Colorado in the standings but trailed Vermont by 5 points and Utah by 32.5 points heading into the final day of Nordic Freestyle. Right now, Denver will need a great effort tomorrow to earn second place while holding off Colorado and, hopefully, passing Vermont. It is highly unlikely that Denver can catch Utah’s outstanding Nordic teams, especially on the women’s side. It can be done but it will take an epic day by all six DU skiers.
Always believe and always go Pioneers!
Top photo of Simon Fournier courtesy of Denver Athletics