Park City • Knowing how the course plays certainly payed off for University of Utah skiers as the NCAA championships began here Wednesday.
Utah’s Mark Engel won the giant slalom on the men’s side while two Utes, Kristiina Rove and Chloe Fausa, placed second and third for the women.
Though just a freshman, the 22-year-old Engel was actually a two-year veteran of the U.S. Ski Team before entering college. The leader after the first run, Engel then had what he called "a pretty wild ride" to edge New Mexico’s Armin Triendle to claim first with a combined time of 1:58.56.
"I slowed down and it was pretty turny afterwards so it wasn’t the worst move," said Triendle of manuevering around a gate early in the course on the second run. "I had a mistake, it slowed me down, but it set me up nicely for the next section."
Knowing the mountain, Triendle added, doesn’t hurt.
"It’s a pretty good advantage," he said. "I also grew up in Truckee and have a lot of experience here. … It always skis tactically the same way — you have to pull back in a spot and go for it in another spot."
In the women’s race, Denver‘s Kristine Haugen was the day’s first competitor and was the champion at the end.
Haugen, a sophomore for the Pioneers, also won both the slalom and giant slalom races at the NCAA championships a year ago. Her combined time of 1:56.39 was a fraction of a second better than Rove’s mark of 1:56.95.
When the day began, Haugen and Rove were the first two skiiers after bib numbers were drawn the night before.
"I was so happy with my bib draw; drawing number one was just amazing," Haugen said. "I think it depends on the person. Some people don’t like being number one, but today I really wanted to be one because it was warm up here."
The championships continue in Park City and Soldier Hollow through Saturday. Watch the action live online. > ncaa.com/liveschedule
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