Colorado Battles Back To Win 19th NCAA Title
March 9, 2013
The University of Colorado posted the biggest final-day comeback in the history of the NCAA Skiing Championships on Saturday, shining in the Nordic mass start freestyle races to earn its 18th national title at the Rikert Nordic Center.
The Buffaloes overturned Vermont's 54-point advantage on the last of four days of competition, finishing with 708 points. Utah rode a dominant men's Nordic performance to finish second with 665 points while Vermont slumped to third with 653. Denver (629 points) took fourth and Dartmouth (594) edged New Mexico (576) for fifth in the 21-team field.
“For us it was most important, ... and what I was focusing during the entire race, was to make sure there was no Vermont guy in front,” said Colorado's Rune Oedegaard, whose second-place finish in the men's 20-kilometer race confirmed the title. “It's a team competition and we made it; I'm so happy right now.”
Colorado made its big move in the women's 15K freestyle, with seniors Joanne Reid (Palo Alto, Calif.) and Eliska Hajkova (Jablonec, Czech Republic) finishing 1-2 and freshman Maria Nordstrom (Gavle, Sweden) coming in 12th to net the Buffaloes 125 points – 70 more than Vermont's total in the event.
“The girls, wow!” Oedegaard said. “It was just unbelievable how they could manage to go 1-2 in NCAAs and also have Maria up there. They're just so strong, it's unbelievable.”
Reid dominated individually, pulling away on the final lap to finish in 18:17.8 to win by nearly 27 seconds. The Rocky Mountain Intercollegiate Ski Association Nordic MVP earned her first national title, duplicating the crown her mother, Beth Heiden, won for Vermont in 1983.
“I just skied the best I could all the time, and I guess some point I ended up ahead,” said Reid, who claimed her seventh career All-America finish – including a fourth place in Tuesday's 5K classic.
Hajkova won a sprint with Alaska Anchorage's Marine Dusser (Villard de Lans, France) to finish second and had a good view as Reid pulled away.
“I was watching her from behind, …” said Hajkova, the 2011 classic national champion. “She was skiing fast and fast and fast, and we were dying behind her.”
Reid credited the team effort with helping fuel her success.
“It helps so much,” Reid said. “Eliska can help me all the time, whether or not she's right next to me or pulling me. Just knowing that she's there for me is amazing.”
Dartmouth's Mary O'Connell (Steamboat Springs, Colo.) and Denver's Silje Benum (Trondheim, Norway) came home fourth and fifth to complete the first-team All-Americans. New Hampshire's Anya Bean (Wolfeboro, N.H.), Northern Michigan's Rosie Frankowski (Minneapolis, Minn.), Dartmouth's Annie Hart (Stillwater, Minn.), Utah's Rose Kemp (Boise, Idaho) and Denver Makayla Cappel (Sun Valley, Idaho) rounded out the top 10 and landed on the All-America second team.
The men's race was a tight battle throughout. More than 25 skiers were still within striking distance after the third of four 5K laps, and seven contenders remained coming up the final hill into the stadium.
It came down to a three-way sprint in the final straightaway and Miles Havlick (Boulder, Colo.) of Utah beat out Oedegaard and Utes teammate Einar Ulsund (Trondheim, Norway) to win in 50 minutes, 13.4 seconds. Just 1 second separated the top three finishers.
“It was a nice long sprint,” said Havlick, a senior who won the 20K classic and finished second in the 10K freestyle at last year's NCAA meet in Bozeman, Mont. “I was able to get around some guys and kind of tuck in behind Rune around that short corner and had enough to get by him. Everyone was really strong. It was a big pack throughout the race.”
With fifth-place finisher Niklas Persson (Falun, Sweden) joining Havlick and Ulsund as first-team All-Americans, the Utes posted 133 points in the men's freestyle – the highest single-event total for any team in the competition.
Defending national freestyle champion Erik Soderman (Njurunda, Sweden) of Northern Michigan came home fourth to claim the other first-team All-America spot. The second-team honorees were: New Mexico's Mats Rudin Resaland (Kongsberg, Norway), Dartmouth's Sam Tarling (Cumberland, Maine), Middlebury's Benjamin Lustgarten (Burlington, Vt.), Dartmouth's Silas Talbot (Anchorage, Alaska) and Northern Michigan's Kyle Bratrud (Eden Prairie, Minn.).