Senior Ashley McQueen
March 11, 2006
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, Colo. -- After losing eight All-Americans from last season's NCAA bronze medal roster, first-year head coach Eli Brown diligently led the University of Utah ski team to a eighth-place overall team finish at the 2006 NCAA National Skiing Championships.
"We had some ups and downs today, but the effort of this team was amazing," said Brown. "I'm extremely proud of the effort this team displayed throughout this year's championships."
Host Colorado (654) clinched its first NCAA title since 1999, becoming the first school without a full 12-skier team to win the championships. The Buffs catapulted from sixth to second at the midway point and never looked back as they beatout second place New Mexico (556) by a margin of 98-points. East coast powerhouse Dartmouth (537.5) took home the bronze medal with its third-place performance, while defending NCAA champion Denver (522.5) and Vermont (516) skied fourth and fifth respectively.
Utah is home to nine NCAA titles since the sport went coed in 1983, marking the most in the nation, and 11 combine national team championships. This is the first time in school history Utah has finished lower than fourth in the last 23 years.
Senior freestyle specialist Ashley McQueen ends her four-year college racing career with a 13th-place finish in the grueling 15-km FS with a time of 48:57.7, while freshman standout Sara Schweiger raced 21st with a time of 50:01.0. Junior Nicole Naef gave an incredible effort after racing with severe leg cramps throughout the duration of the race. The Einsiedeln, Switzerland native ended up finishing 35th to bring home Utah's third score.
"Watching Nicole's legs lock up and having her push through the pain was another example of how special this team is," said Brown. "She wanted to quit but kept on going and that was amazing. We were very happy with Ashley's performance today, she has been great to have on this team and we are going to miss her next season."
The men's cross country pack was fueled by Erik Gjomle's 26th-place performance in the highly enduring 20-km skate with a combine time of 59:30.5. Juniors Jess Kiesel and Fabian Figi ended the day placing 31st and 32nd respectively.
"The men worked extremely hard in today's race and worked together," said Brown. "Jess has had past heart problems and it really shows a lot knowing he refused to quit the team, because we wouldn't have a full-team this season."
"As it stands now, we have a clean slate and we are going to dedicate ourselves to reaching the podium next season," added Brown. "We lost a large portion of the team last year and we are in a rebuilding process, but don't count us out."
NCAA Championship Team Scores -- 1. Colorado 654, 2. New Mexico 556, 3. Dartmouth 537, 4. Denver 522.5, 5. Vermont 516, 6. Alaska-Anchorage 451, 7. Middlebury 412, 8. Utah 400, 9. New Hampshire 309, 10. Alaska-Fairbanks 271, 11. Nevada 529; 12. Bates 189, 13. Montana State 185, 14. Northern Michigan 154, 15. Williams 137.5, 16. Colby 130.5, 17. Western State 126.5, 18. Whitman 62.5, 19. Michigan Tech 62, 20. Boise State 50, 21. St. Lawrence 25, 22. Wisconsin-Green Bay 22, 23. St. Olaf 12, 24. Gustavus Adolphus 9.