President Trump flashes the ‘U’ sign as University of Utah ski team visits the White House

President Donald Trump poses for photos with the University of Utah ski team during an event with NCAA championship teams at the White House, Friday, Nov. 17, 2017, in Washington. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is to the right of the President. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

The U. has been repped at the White House.

The University of Utah ski team posed with President Donald Trump and Education Secretary Betsy Devos on Friday, all flashing the U. hand gesture.

The Utes were invited to Washington, D.C., for winning the 2017 Skiing NCAA Championship in March, the team’s first title since 2003 and 11th overall.

The White House hosted 18 championship teams Friday. One team, the South Carolina women’s basketball team, declined the invitation.

“The presidential visit was a very small part of the day,” said Utes Nordic coach Abi Holt.

All 18 teams stood on their designated bleachers throughout the White House, leaving a space for the president when he came through for the photo.

Trump was with the Utes for about a minute and a half, according to Holt’s estimate. As he came in, an aid introduced him to the team. He told them he skied too, Holt said, adding that he said he skis in Aspen. Then he took his place, everyone flashed the U., and then he moved on to the next team.

“It was a visit with the president briefly, but more of the time and experience was the trip to the White House,” Holt said. “It was a pretty cool thing.”

For about an hour and a half before the photo, the team roamed the East Wing, “surprised” at how much freedom they had to take photos, she said.

In the two-story East Wing, they explored a reading room and looked at portraits — including a portrait of George Washington that hasn’t been taken down since the 1800s, Holt said. Historians wandered around, telling the student athletes about the rooms, she said.

One room, according to the historians, was the biggest room in the White House. It was the room where Barack Obama had announced that the United States had killed Osama Bin Laden, Holt said.

After the photo, the teams got a quick tour the Oval Office, saw the Rose Garden and then were shuffled out, Holt said.

The university posted the photo of the team with Trump on Facebook on Friday to mixed reactions from commenters.

Not everyone on the team went to the White House, Holt said. After the team received the invitation on Tuesday, there was discussion about whether they would accept.

“[The staff] acknowledged that this isn’t necessarily an easy decision,” she said. “We didn’t feel like it wasn’t our place to make the decision for everyone [on the team], so we communicated that we supported whatever decision they made.”

There were a couple skiers who didn’t go. Some of them were were busy chasing their Olympic dreams and had a NorAm race in Copper, Colo., Saturday morning, Holt said. As to whether anyone declined the invitation because they didn’t want to go, Holt didn’t know.

“We presented it as a no-questions-asked,” Holt said. “Go or don’t go.”

Most of the skiers that visited the White House on Friday hadn’t been there before, and they certainly hadn’t been inside the Oval Office, she said.

“We were all excited for the opportunity. In general, the sentiment of the team is that it was more fun than we expected,” Holt said. “It was a fun day. We were all struck by the history of the White House. It’s quite a thing to go there.”

To win the championship, Utah edged the University of Denver after four days of competition. Utah’s Martin Bergström captured his second NCAA title with a win in men’s freestyle.

Correction, 7:55 p.m. on Nov. 17, 2017: An earlier version of this article misspelled the name of University of Utah skier Martin Bergström.

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