Senior All-American Ben Thornhill
Feb. 21, 2006
The University of Utah ski team will strive for gold at the NCAA West Regional/RMISA Championship, Feb. 23-24. Historically, Utah (52.5) holds the record for first-place finishes at the West Regionals and hopes to expand on this mark this season. This year's events will be hosted by Nevada University and held at SugarBowl, Calif. and Auburn, Calif. Race times are all day.
Utah rallied for its second fourth-place finish of the season at the Western State Invitational. The Ute skiers had several exceptional results, headlined by the men's alpine team tying for first with Nevada in the giant slalom. The Utes were led by senior Will McDonald (4th) and freshman Scott Veenis (6th). Veenis opened the invite racking up a second-place finish in the slalom, marking his second of the season. On the women's downhill side, freshman Mikaela Grassl skied to a season-best seventh-place mark in the SL.
The women's nordic squad skied well in the 5-km skate, piloted by senior Ashley McQueen (7th) and junior Nicole Naef (11th). The men's pack was limited to only two skiers, after junior Jess Kiesel didn't make the trip due to illness. Junior Fabian Figi raced to a season-best seventh-place performance in the 10-km classical. Fellow junior Erik Gjomle finished with his best race coming in the 10-km freestyle, where he placed 13th.
WESTERN STATE INVITATIONAL STANDINGS:
1. Colorado 600 2. Denver 556 3. New Mexico 527 4. Utah 450 5. Nevada 412 6. Montana State 344 7. Western State 296 8. Alaska-Anchorage 205 9. Whitman 173 10. Boise State 62
QUOTING HEAD COACH Eli Brown:
"Both the cross country and alpine squads are prepared and ready for the final push of the season. Regionals is right around the corner, then not too long before the big show (NCAAs). The athletes are getting rested and psyched.Training at home here in Utah has been excellent."
"Sure we have had some ups and downs during the regular season, but these athletes know how to rise to the occasion. I think we are going to surprise some people. We still have the same goal that we set out with in the beginning and that is be on the NCAA podium as a team. Performing strong at the Regional Championships is our plan, one last dry run before the big show in Steamboat, Colo.!"
QUOTING ALPINE HEAD COACH Jaka Korencan:
"Overall, the team is in great shape. We had a great block of practice with optimal snow conditions which definitively elevated the level of skiing of the whole team."
"In the last two meets in Colorado, the alpine racers have showed that they are on one of the best teams in the collegiate circuit. I know that with a little bit of luck on our side we can be even a step higher. Like always, my goal is to ski to our potential and the results will come on their own. I know that the men and women are capable of placing top 10 in both the slalom and giant slalom, which would put us in a battle for the podium. However, the most important thing right now is that the team is healthy and I really hope that it stays like that to the end of the season."
SCHOOL VICTORIES IN NCAA WEST SKI INVITATIONAL:
*Utah 52.5 Colorado 36 Denver 19 New Mexico 9 *Wyoming 7.5
(*--Wyoming and Utah tied for the 1985 title at the Wyoming Invite)
The NCAA team scoring system for skiing will be implemented: each school can designate up to six potential scorers, with the three top finishes counting toward the overall team score. First place receives 30 points, second 29, third 28, etc. If a fourth or fifth individual from one team finishes in a scoring position, the points to be awarded to that place are awarded to the next skier who is not a fourth or fifth skier from a team. In case of a tie, the tying skiers are awarded the average of the points designated for the tied position plus the points for the next place of finish.
2006 SKI RACING MAGAZINE PRESEASON RANKINGS:
1. University of Denver 2. University of Colorado 3. University of New Mexico 4. University of Vermont 5. University of Utah 6. University of Alaska-Anchorage 7. Middlebury College 8. Northern Michigan University 9. University of Nevada 10. Dartmouth College 11. University of Wyoming
Senior Ben Thornhill is the sole returning first-team All-American after skiing sixth in the GS at the 2005 NCAA Skiing Championships. The British Columbia, Canada native is a two-time NCAA GS champion after winning the event in '03 and '04.
Freshman alpine skier Kyle Kung will be out for the season after crashing during the slalom event at the Montana State Invite and re-injuring his left shoulder. The Girdwood, Alaska native is hopeful to rejoin the team next season.
Junior nordic skier Casey Simons recently underwent surgery and will miss duration of the 2006 season. The Park City, Utah native competed in the NCAAs as a sophomore and will rejoin the team next year.
Senior alpine racer Andi Wieser will redshirt in '06. The Nova Gorica, Slovenia native missed the entire '05 ski season due to a knee injury and is expected to return to the squad next season.
-Nordic Recruits: Erik Gjomle Fabian Figi Linda Pettersson Sara Schweiger
University of Alaska, Anchorage University of Nevada Reno Montana State University University of Utah University of Colorado Western State College University of Denver Whitman College University of New Mexico Boise State University
With the NCAAs on the horizon, the Utes will be on a quest for its 12th National Championship, Mar. 8-11. The alpine venues will be ski at Mt. Werner, while the cross country events will be held at Howelsen Hill in Steamboat, Colo.