Sophomore Scott Veenis led a squad of unexperienced but talented youngsters to a standout season in 2007.
April 2, 2007
The University of Utah Ski Team began the 2006-07 season featuring a team with few familiar contributors and mainly new faces. Rising stars emerged to help Utah place consistently well throughout the season, ultimately allowing the Utes to field a full roster for the NCAA Championships. The team's fourth-place finish at nationals, along with its returning roster replete with young talent, brings renewed expectations for the future of this tradition-rich program.
Two outstanding freshmen led Utah this season, capturing multiple first-place finishes and helping the Utes qualify a full 12-skier squad for the NCAA Championships. Tague Thorson, a standout alpine skier from Mahtomedi, Minn., swept both alpine events at the Utah Invitational, held at Park City Mountain Resort. Thorson's victories in the slalom (1:32.13) and GS (1:53.93) catapulted the team to its best finish (2nd) of the season. Thorson also accepted an invitation to compete in the prestigious World University Games in Torino, Italy. The Utah freshman did not disappoint, finishing second behind only Denver University's Adam Cole in the final combined standings.
Fellow freshman Snorri Einarsson had several podium finishes before finally breaking through with a victory in the men's 15K classic at the Denver Invitational. The Tromso, Norway native narrowly defeated Rene Reisshauer of Denver University, outkicking the Pioneer skier in the final 20 meters. Einarsson's time of 46:58.4 earned the newcomer his first collegiate victory in dramatic fashion. The freshman phenom saved his best for last, capturing Utah's lone national championship this season in the men's 20K classic. Einarsson was mobbed by ecstatic teammates and coaches who were on hand to witness his second dramatic victory of the season.
Former Olympian Chirine Njeim and Mikaela Grassl led the women's alpine contingent in the 2006-07 campaign. Njeim and Grassl finished outside of the top 10 only once, in the first event of the season. From there, the sophomore duo finished in the top 10 in every event, a remarkable accomplishment. Sophomore Sara Schweiger led the women's team, with nine top-10 finishes, including a second-place finish at the Montana State Invitational.
As a team, the Utes performed consistently well all season, never finishing out of the top five in any event. The standout team performance of the season occurred at the NCAA West Regional in Truckee, Calif. Kim Stephens and Kyle Kung, who entered the event on the NCAA Championship bubble, turned in second-place performances to qualify. Thanks to Stephens' and Kung's efforts, the Utes were able to field a full 12-skier roster, one of only three teams nationally to do so.
The Utes traveled to New Hampshire to compete in the NCAA Championships Mar. 7-10. The team battled sub-zero temperatures and fierce winds to garner a fourth-place finish in the team standings. For the alpine team it was all sixes. Scott Veenis turned in a pair of sixth-place finishes in the GS and slalom, while Mikaela Grassl (slalom) and Chirine Njeim (GS) earned sixth-place finishes of their own.
On the Nordic side, the men's team was led by freshman Snorri Einarsson's first-place finish in the 20K classic. Einarsson also led the Utes in the men's 10K freestyle, clocking a time of 25:21.6, to finish second in his first appearance at the NCAA Championships. Even Sletten (10th,, 11th) and Fabian Figi (13th, 14th) gave the team three skiers in the top 15 in each Nordic event. The women's team was led by reliable Sara Schweiger, who recorded two top-10 finishes to pace the Utes.
Though the Utes recorded an impressive fourth-place finish at nationals, their 12-skier roster was made up entirely of underclassmen, making the future very bright for Utah skiing.
"We had some strong individual performances, and improved a lot from last year," head coach Eli Brown said. "It's been a great experience, and I think next season we'll be even better."