Three-time All-American Ben Thornhill will lead the alpine team and be a podium favorite come March.
Nov. 30, 2005
SALT LAKE CITY -After a bronze-medal performance at the 2005 NCAA National Championships, racking up seven individual All-American honors, newly appointed head coach Eli Brown, a former Ute assistant coach, returns to his alma mater to become the 10th head ski coach at the University of Utah.
"I'm very excited to come in and my focus is to carry on the legacy of this skiing program," says Brown. "Utah has a great tradition of success and this is a very exciting step for me. This team has had some great coaches in the past and I hope to live up to their standards."
With a roster boasting a mix of returning experience and incoming talent, Brown still expects the usual excellence synonymous with the Utes.
"We look very strong this season in all disciplines," says a confident Brown. "We are going to ease into the season. There is no sense opening up too hard and skiing fast in the opening races. Our main goal is to be ready come NCAAs."
Utah is home to 11 crowned NCAA national championship teams, 64 individual NCAA titles, 21 Olympic athletes and 294 All-Americans ... a display of one of the most successful skiing programs within the college racing circuit.
The 2005 season ended with the Utes earning a third-place podium finish at the NCAAs and a fifth-place performance at the Rocky Mountain Intercollegiate Skiing Association (RMISA) Western Regional Championships. Prior to the beginning of the season, Utah was predicted as the best college team in the country by Ski Racing Magazine's coaches' poll.
Although the Utes fell short of their preseason potential, the Utes managed to ski past top-ranked powerhouse foes New Mexico, Dartmouth and Colorado to claim the bronze medal hardware.
In addition to Utah's excellence on the slopes, the ski team prides themselves on their academics, boasting an outstanding performance in the classroom. Utah was home to 16 Academic All-America honorees, nine Mountain West Conference Scholar-Athletes and a combined 10 Dean's List recipients last season. And if that wasn't enough, the team also participates in annual community service projects throughout Salt Lake City.
"This team is very professional in balancing school and training," says Brown. "Success in both skiing and academics is very important to our program and we have high expectations for this team."
With multiple Olympic training facilities located within the prestigious Wasatch Mountains, Ute athletes ski on some of the finest terrain in the country. The alpine team has three world-class training venues in Park City Mountain Resort, Deer Valley and Snowbird. The cross country team trains on the world renown trails at Soldier Hollow, White Pine in Park City, Mountain Dell and Solitude.
"Our training facilities are unbelievable and world-class," says Brown. "We have an excellent strength training program, support staff and athletic training facilities, while the skiing venues speak for themselves."
Korencan will take over as director of the alpine squad after extensive international and college experience. The alpine team has restructured the roster bringing in five talented newcomers, after losing four All-Americans last season.
The men's alpine squad will be headlined by one of the most dynamic downhill skiers in the country and three-time All-American Ben Thornhill. The two-time NCAA giant slalom champion should be explosive this season and is expected to make another run for the NCAA gold come March. Fellow senior Will McDonald returns this season with two-years of NCAA experience under his belt and is expected to help lead the Utes. Junior slalom specialist Gaspar Perricone has made great strides in off-season training and will be geared up for the upcoming season.
"Ben leads a group of very talented veterans and newcomers," says Korencan. "Slalom specialist Will McDonald is in great shape and is motivated to be one of the top racers in the country. Gaspar is coming into his third-season and has emerged as one of the team leaders on and off the ski hill, both in academics and his training."
Senior Andi Wieser sustained a season-ending knee injury last year and will redshirt the upcoming season.
The women's team has their hands full this season after revamping the roster following the loss of three All-Americans, which made up the entire NCAA team from last winter.
Senior All-American transfer Erika Hogan comes to the team after a three-year stint with the University of Colorado where she tore it up at the 2004 NCAAs, skiing to a silver-medal podium finish in the giant slalom. Local product Kim Stephens returns to help spearhead the Utes' downhill attack this season after posting four top-10 finishes last year as a sophomore. Junior Lauren Lattimer has recovered from a prior knee injury and is poised to have a solid season. Utah also looks upon the shoulders of two newcomers in American Chelsea Laswell and Swede Mikaela Grassl to offer a threat in the alpine events. Both freshman skiers have great potential to be consistent in both alpine disciplines, after racing in the non-collegiate junior ranks.
"Erika Hogan leads a strong squad that includes former U.S. Ski Team member Kim Stevens and new recruits, Mikaela Grassl and Chelsae Laswell," remarks Korencan. "Kim and Lauren are coming back extremely strong and I expect them to be a leading force on the mountain. Erika has proven before that she is a world-class athlete and I am really excited to see her race this season."
With six letterwinners returning from last season's roster and a determined mix of newcomers, Utah's cross country team will set its tracks for another impressive season of action under the guidance of coach Brown.
Utah's women's squad will be without the support of first-team All-Americans Sandra Gredig and Barbro Hatlevik, but returns four former NCAA qualifiers to help lead the Ute pack this season. Junior sensation Nicole Naef and senior freestyle specialist Ashley McQueen will be anticipating another great showing for the upcoming season.
Freshman Sara Schweiger is the sole newcomer and comes to the team after a tremendous non-collegiate junior racing experience in Germany. She is expected to challenge for a NCAA position.
"Our women's squad could be one of our strengths this season," says Brown. "They are all motivated to ski at NCAAs, which will make for an exciting season of skiing. Our returners are healthy and are coming off great summer and fall training."
The men's cross country pack will rely on the credentials of junior NCAA competitor Casey Simons and fellow junior NCAA qualifier Jess Kiesel. They will be looked upon to fill the void of All-Americans Magnus Carlsson and Daniel Sonntag. Simons, a former Junior World competitor, returns as Utah's top finisher in both nordic events, while Kiesel has the potential to be one the top cross country skiers in the West this season.
"Casey and Jess are very experienced in college racing and they know what to except this season," remarks Brown. "Fabian is looking really strong and will be one of our standout skiers. Erik is motivated to work hard and he truly loves to compete."
With first-year head coach Brown, a talented blend of NCAA-experienced letterwinners and a gifted group of newcomers, Utah has its sights set on a podium finish at the NCAAs in Steamboat, Colo. come March.
"It's going to be great having the NCAAs in the West this year and I'm really looking forward to this season," says Brown. "We are very healthy as a team and anxious to compete. This program has always had a great tradition of skiing and I plan on following this into the future."