Once University of Utah senior skier Guro Jordheim took third place in the women’s 5-kilometer freestyle race Thursday at the NCAA Ski Championships, the Utes assumed a 10-point lead in the team standings.
Freshman Samuel Hendry followed Jordheim with a second-place finish in the men’s 10-kilometer freestyle. Hendry’s run represented the halfway mark of the four-day competition in Bozeman, Mont. with Utah holding a 32-point lead over another national power, the University of Denver.
That may have officially been the halfway point, but the Pac-12 had other ideas. With Utah in command, the Pac-12 announced on Thursday morning that all sports competition and championships were canceled to COVID-19 fears. Right behind that, the NCAA announced the immediate cancelation of all championship events.
“After the men’s race, the Pac-12 canceled everything, so we were pretty sure our championship would not go on after that,” Utah Director of Skiing Fredrik Landstedt told The Salt Lake Tribune on Friday morning as he and his team headed home from Bozeman, Mont. “It wasn’t a surprise, but it’s unfortunate. Everyone wants to ski, so it’s terrible for the athletes, especially the seniors.”
The big question now is what to do with the fact that Utah, winner of 11 NCAA Championships since the event went co-ed in 1983, including 2017 and under Landstedt in 2019, was leading the team scoring at the time of cancelation.
According to the NCAA skiing rulebook, if one nordic event and one alpine event are completed, and you cannot contest the second event of each due to unforeseen circumstances such as weather, the completed results are doubled to produce a final score.
The NCAA Championships began with the giant slalom on Wednesday and freestyle on Thursday. The slalom was to take place on Friday and the classic on Saturday.
By the letter of the law, Utah will eventually be crowned the national champion, and Landstedt is optimistic that will be the final result.
“We had a team dinner with some pizza, we celebrated a championship afterwards, but it is what it is.” Landstedt said. “To be honest, other sports are in worse situations, but hopefully the NCAA will come to a decision and make us the winners.”
In terms of record-keeping, a Utah athletic department spokesperson told The Tribune Thursday that the school would follow suit with whatever decision the NCAA ultimately comes to.