Ute skier claims second national title
Bozeman, Mont. University of Utah senior Maria Graenings won her second national title and the Utes finished the first day of the NCAA Ski Championships in third place in the team standings.
Miles Havlick finished as the runner-up in the Nordic Freestyle races at Bohart Ranch.
Utah trailed Dartmouth by 31 points and Vermont by four points in the team standings. Host Montana State finished the first day in fourth place, while defending national champion Colorado is tied for fifth with Northern Michigan at 154."
The alpine events will begin Thursday at Bridger Bowl.
The Ute women earned 74 points in the women's freestyle competition, finishing just one points shy of tying Alaska Anchorage for third. Graefing won the women's 5-kilometer freestyle.
In addition to winning last season's 15k classical title, she has now earned five All-American honors over her career and has won a total of 12 races as a Ute. The Falun, Sweden native has won her last three races and this was her fourth victory in seven races during the 2012 season. She has placed on the podium five times this year and 17 times during her two seasons at Utah.
"This was a great day," Graefnings said. "I am so happy to be the national champion. The conditions were awesome, sunny and fast."
In her NCAA Championships debut, junior Parker Tyler gutted out a 20th-place effort and was just .07 seconds behind Beth Taylor of Bates College for 19th place. Senior Rose Kemp finished 35th.
Utah posted 105 points in the men's event, second among the participating team. Havlick finished second in the 10-kilometer freestyle, the best finish of the junior's career at the NCAA championships. He has been third or better in 10 of 11 races this season.
"Today could not have been nicer, it was gorgeous," Havlick said. "We've battled hard all season and stepped up when we needed it most. Rose and Parker were unlucky the other night with some food poisoning, but have rested and I'm impressed that they were able to even put a bib on today. Huge congrats to Maria for her second NCAA title and big thanks to the coaches for great skis once again. It was amazing having the Alpine team out yelling hard for us to cheer us on. It was a huge help in the last few kilometers. Every day that passes, Rose and Parker will be getting stronger so we are all excited to show what the Utes can do in the mass start on Friday."
Senior Didrik Smith finished sixth overall to earn Second-Team All-American recognition and his third straight top-10 finish at the NCAA Championships. Tom Smith was the third Ute to cross the finish line as he earned his second career top-20 effort at the NCAA Championships.
"Today, I was able to witness some of the most gutsy performances of my coaching career," Utah Director of Kevin Sweeney said. "We had stellar podium performances resulting in a national champion as well as two additional All-America results scoring in the top 10. We also had two athletes race today, who had you asked me 24 hours ago if they would have been in the start gate, I would have said absolutely not. Illness struck the team at the worst possible moment and we had to dig deeper than I think we have all season. The end result is that we are in the hunt and I could not be more proud and humbled by how the team opened today. I think this has us more motivated than ever before as we eye day two of the championships."