Last season, Ben Thornhill won the GS at the 2004 NCAA Championships.
Jan. 5, 2005
SALT LAKE CITY -- The No. 1 (Ski Racing Magazine) ranked University of Utah ski team currently remains in second-place behind Denver after the opening day of the Utah Invitational. The first day featured the men's giant slalom, women's slalom and both classical events.
Denver (283.0) took the reigns early finishing with the top-spot, followed by the Utes (259.0). The Buffs of Colorado (245.0) claimed third, while the defending national champions New Mexico (236.0) finished fourth. Alaska-Anchorage (223.0) placed fifth to round out the top-five.
"I'm very pleased with our second-place finish today," said Head Coach Kevin Sweeney. "We had some very difficult conditions at both venues, which prevented us from skiing to our potential. We are optimistic on improving throughout the season, but it's exciting to see the mixture of both veteran and newcomer scoring."
Utah's alpine squad performed well, finishing second in both the men's GS and women's SL. First-team All-American Ben Thornhill continues to show the college racing circuit why he is the best in the GS, coming back from eighth-place to finish first with a time of 2:06.11. Newcomer Mark Heinrich-Wallace held nothing back skiing to a 10th-place finish in 2:08.72. Junior Will McDonald finished a few tenths of a second behind Heinrich-Wallace, placing 11th with a time of 2:09.11.
"Overall, this was a really great start," said Head Alpine Coach Aaron Atkins. "The men skied great and I'm really happy with our results. Ben's first-place finish was awesome. Mark did a great job with it being his first race with the team and Will's performance was fantastic. We lost Gaspar, but I know he will be ready for tomorrow."
"The women also performed very well," remarked Atkins. "April skied great today, finishing in the top-five. Kim and Elisha did an excellent job putting up great results."
"The conditions were very tough," added Atkins. "We had a severe snow storm, which made the conditions extremely challenging, but a lot of people pitched in and it turned out to be a great day for Utah skiing."
The nordic teams struggled a little, but managed to hold on to a fourth-place finish in the men's 10-km and women's 5-km classical events. Sophomore Daniel Sonntag led the pack, skiing past Alaska-Anchorage skier and brother Ben Sonntag to finish ninth in 30:27.4. Sophomore Casey Simons skated to a 14th-place finish with a time of 31:08.3. Junior Jess Kiesel returns to the team after recovering from a severe heart injury by skiing 15th in 31:08.9. Junior Tony Bozzio placed 32nd.
On the women's side, sophomore Sandra Gredig skied sixth in 18:05.7, while All-American Barbro Hatlevik finished eighth with a time of 18:11.5. Junior Ashley McQueen rounded out the top-three scores for the Utes, placing 18th in 18:40.2. Senior Anna Sprague skated to a 21st-place finish, while newcomer Nicole Naef notched 25th.
"We had a mediocre day on the cross country side," said coach Sweeney. "The kick-waxing was difficult today, but the effort was there. I don't think our skies were where we wanted them, but that is all part of ski racing. We had a tough day, but we are going to be fired up and charging in tomorrow's events.
Tomorrow, Jan. 6, the Utah Invitational will continue with the men's SL, women's GS and both the freestyle races. The alpine events will be skied at the Park City Mountain Ski Resort, Eagle Arena, while the nordic races will be raced at Soldier Hollow in Midway, Utah.