NCAA skiing: Utes finish second for third straight year
Ripton, Vt. • Miles Havlick led a Utah charge by winning the men's 20-kilometer freestyle Nordic race in the final event of the 60th NCAA ski championships to lift the Utes to their third consecutive second-place finish.
Colorado rallied from a 54-point deficit to win its 18th title with 708 points Saturday. Utah began the final day in fourth place, 83 points off the lead, but finished with 665 points after leapfrogging both defending champion Vermont (653) and Denver (629). The Utes won the 1988 title at Middlebury College, which hosted this year's events.
Havlick was backed by third-place finisher Einar Ulsund and fifth-place Niklas Persson. Coupled with Rose Kemp's ninth-place performance in the women's 15K event, it enabled Utah to close strong after ragged performances in the men's Alpine events torpedoed its title hopes.
"We did start off a little bit on the rocky side, but you just have to keep charging," Utah director of skiing Kevin Sweeney said. "This championship is so intense, even small mistakes are really magnified.
"We had a few bumps and a little bit of bad luck. At the same time, we had some solid results and showed our depth and consistency. Overall, I've got to be happy."
Havlick won the 20K classical title last year but was sixth in the 15K version of that event Thursday. On Saturday, he won a sprint to the finish in 50 minutes, 13.4 seconds, just ahead of Colorado's Rune Oedegaard (50:14.0) and Ulsund (50:14.4).
"I had a hard day in classical, but those days happen," Havlick said. "Today was a perfect day it doesn't get any better than this. Our Alpine skiers were trying their best, but their trouble almost kind of took the pressure off [the Nordic team]. Our goal was three in the top five, and we did it."
Nordic coach Abi Holt said she only could hope for a performance like the men produced.
"That team has been strong all winter, but you never know what's going to happen on the national stage," Holt said. "I think these guys skied smart, but the stars had to align for us."
The women's Alpine team did what it could. Ana Kobal, ranked second overall entering the competition, was fifth in slalom and sixth in giant slalom, while fellow sophomore Kristiina Rove was fourth in giant slalom and 11th in slalom. But Jaime Dupratt was unable to duplicate the seven top-10 finishes she delivered during the regular season, finishing outside the top 20 in both slalom and giant slalom.
Jeremy Elliot had Utah's top individual Alpine performance, tying for second in the giant slalom. But he was disqualified after the first run of the slalom. Andy Trow was seventh in slalom but 18th in giant slalom.
Senior Ryan Wilson found misfortune in both races. He had a frightening airborne crash in giant slalom then missed the last gate in the opening slalom run and had to hike back up to clear a gate. That played into Utah finishing 11th as a team in that event, undermining the Utes' chances of mounting a final-day comeback.
Salt Lake City native Corey Oliver had a week to remember skiing for the University of New Hampshire. He matched Elliot's team in the giant slalom in his best race of the season and helped the Wildcat men place second in the two Alpine events.
"I was shellshocked more than anything," Oliver said. "I just tried to stay calm and let my skis work. It was a great time to have my best day."
Colorado rules, Utah follows
R Colorado scores 708 points to win the NCAA skiing championship, followed by Utah (665) and Vermont (653).
• Utah's Miles Havlick wins the 20-kilometer cross-country race in 50 minutes, 13.4 seconds, edging Colorado's Rune Oedegaard (50:14.0) and Ute Einar Ulsund (50:14.4). Utah's Niklas Persson (50:16.5) places fifth.
• Utah' Rose Kemp (39:48.1) places ninth in the women's 15K race.