University beat: Utah ski team in search of 12th NCAA title
University beat • A decade has passed since Utes’ last championship.
Published: March 5, 2013 02:41PM
Updated: March 6, 2013 04:25PM

When the Utah ski team hits the slopes Wednesday at the NCAA Championships, it will mark a decade since the Utes stood alone on the winner’s podium.

Title No. 12 has been a long time coming for Utah, which last won the event in 2003 and has finished second the past two seasons. The Utes placed third at the recent West Region and the team will have its hands full with the likes of Denver, Colorado and defending champion Vermont.

But there is optimism as the athletes head to Middlebury (Vt.) College.

“The team is skiing exceptionally well, and we have very strong leadership and camaraderie,” said Kevin Sweeney, Utah’s director of skiing. “A couple of mistakes, bad luck and illnesses have prevented us from scoring our absolute best, but I am optimistic these will be under control for Vermont.”

Alpine events are at Middlebury College Snow Bowl. The men’s and women’s giant slaloms will be Wednesday, with the men’s and women’s slaloms scheduled for Friday.

Nordic events take place at Rikert Nordic Center. The men’s 10K and women’s 5K classical cross-country races are Thursday, with the women’s 15K and men’s 20K freestyle races set for Saturday.

Miles Havlick, the nation’s No. 1 seed in the classical and the freestyle races Nordic races, is the defending NCAA 20K freestyle champion.

The Utes also need strong Nordic performances from Einar Ulsund, a third seed, and Niklas Persson, who has placed consistently among the top 10 finishers this season.

Rose Kemp enters the competition as the fifth seed.

Jeremy Elliott, Ryan Wilson and Andy Trow highlight the Utah men’s alpine team, while Ana Kobal is second among the women’s rankings. Kristiina Rove and Jamie Dupratt are listed fifth and eighth, respectively.

First time the sweetest

Three times in the past four seasons, the Westminster women’s basketball team won the right to host the Frontier Conference Tournament championship, and three times the Griffins came up empty.

That changed Monday with a 63-48 victory against Carroll College in Behnken Field House. Nicole Yazzie scored 18 points, while teammate Allie Eastman added 12.

With the victory, fifth-ranked Westminster (27-3) clinched the automatic bid into the NAIA National Championships, which begin March 13 in Frankfort, Ky.

The Griffins opened the second half with a 14-5 run, then later held the Saints scoreless for nearly eight minutes to sew up the victory.

“That was a great second half,” Westminster coach Shelley Jarrard said afterward. “We held them to 17 points and really played the defense we wanted.”

Last season, Westminster made it to the second round of the NAIA Tournament, losing to Oklahoma City.

Indoor championships

Utah miler Amanda Mergaert has accomplished quite a bit in helping establish the track program, including several NCAA outdoor appearances. But Mergaert will compete in her first NCAA Indoor Championships when she takes the track Friday in Fayetteville, Ark.

Mergaert earned her automatic qualifying bid after clocking a school-record 4 minutes, 35.35 seconds at the Husky Invitational on Feb. 8, the 12th fastest time in the country.

While Utah is sending one runner, BYU will have a handful of athletes compete for a national title, including Kelsey Brown, who qualified in the 800-meter race with a time of 2:04.94, which ranks seventh in the nation.

On the men’s side, four Cougars will travel to Fayetteville — Victor Weirich (pole vault), Jared Ward (5,000), Tylor Thatcher (5,000) and Ryan Waite (800).

martyr@sltrib.com