Senior Jernej Bukovec was the 2001 NCAA slalom champion.
Dec. 30, 2002
The University of Utah alpine ski team will open the 2003 season by traveling to Big Sky, Mont., to compete in the Montana Invitational. The Utes will ski in the giant slalom on Jan. 3 and will wrap up the Invitational on Jan. 4 as they compete in the slalom. Last season, the Utes finished third in the NCAA Tournament.
Utah is optimistic and determined to capture its 11th national championship this year. This season, Utah is tied for second in the SkiRacing preseason poll with Colorado. The No. 1 seeding went to returing NCAA Champion Denver.
With the Utes boasting 10 All-American performances at the NCAA Championships last season, Head Coach Kevin Sweeney expects the same for the 2003 campaign. Returning for the Utes will be NCAA double silver medalist Pierre Olsson, 2001 NCAA slalom champ Jernej Bukovec and former Development Team skier Josh Whitham. The Utes have also added Ben Thornhill, a former Canadian junior national team skier.
Unfortunately the Utes' women's alpine team will be without April Mancuso, GS silver medalist at the NCAAs. A year ago Mancuso was involved in a skiing accident, which resulted in a fractured L2 vertebra.
On a brighter note, Elisha Stephens, a Development Team skier has been rehabbing a knee injury and is back to form. Petra Svet, an NCAA gold and bronze medalist will also lead Utah this season. Junior Lina Johansson from Sweden and sophomore Rowena Bright from Australia are expected to make an immediate impact this year.
Several Ute skiers were named to the All-Conference teams after exceptional performances last season. For the alpine team, Olsson, Mancuso and Svet racked up first-team honors.
STEPHENS PLACED AMONG THE BEST:
Sophomore Elisha Stephens was named to the 2003 Winter World University Games (WWUG) team by the United States Ski Team and United States Olympic Committee. To receive this honor, an athlete must be academically certified by their University Registrar, ranked among the top 50 in the United States in at least one discipline and be registered for the Federation International de Ski points list.
QUOTING COACH KEVIN SWEENEY:
"The Utes are ready to kick off the season opener in Montana with the alpine portion of the MSU Invitational," remarks Sweeney. "Cross country will wrap up the event on Jan. 17-18. We've had some excellent early training and early warm up races with solid performances especially from our new recruits.
"We'll miss not having April in the lineup and also Kristian (Guay), who recently underwent surgery to repair an ankle injury. We do not have a lot of depth so we will have to ski smart, ski like a real team and have consistency scoring in the top 10. That is the only way we will win, and, we need to focus on that 100 percent. We are an awesome squad and I want to come right out and show that in the first meet."
The Utes will host the Alaska-Utah-WinterGames Invitational and it will be held Jan. 11-13. The GS (Jan. 11) and the SL (Jan. 12) events will be held in Park City, Utah, while 5/10 FS (Jan. 12) and the 15/20 CL (Jan. 13) event will be skied in Soldier Hollow, Utah.