Senior Maria Graefnings won the 5km freestyle race Friday at the NCAA West Region/RMISA Championships.
Feb. 24, 2012
BOZEMAN, Mont. - Athletes from the University of Utah ski team won three races during the first day of the NCAA West Region/RMISA Championships Friday in Bozeman, Mont. Utah is in first place after accumulating 484 points during the first day of competition that featured the women's giant slalom and 5/10km freestyle. Defending national champion Colorado is in second place with 422.5 points.
Utah is bidding to become the first team to win all five western meets since 2005, when Denver accomplished the feat on its way to the NCAA title. Since skiing went coed in 1983, the only other western sweeps were accomplished in 1989 (Utah) and in 1995 (Colorado).
"The women's alpine sweep of the podium today was truly an amazing performance rarely seen in college skiing," Utah Director of Skiing Kevin Sweeney said. "We demonstrated that depth on the podium is one of our main strengths in all disciplines. Today was rewarding as we are adjusting from a few illnesses. From my perspective, it is really motivating to see everyone charging. This is a nice position for us to be at regionals as several athletes have stepped it up. Team momentum and spirit are 100% right now. It was an excellent job by everyone in today's opening events."
The Utes took seven out of 12 possible podium spots and dominated the Alpine podium at the Bridger Bowl by taking four of the top six spots in the giant slalom events. The Utes earned a meet-high 266 points, while Colorado and New Mexico were second with 192.5 points.
Utah swept the women's giant slalom podium and earned 141 points as senior Tii-Maria Romar took the RMISA title in the women's giant slalom for her fourth victory of the season and the sixth of her career. She was steady throughout the day as she posted the second-fastest first-run time and had the fourth-fastest mark during the second run.
"We did a `Utah Triple' today," Romar said. "For sure, it was the most exciting race of the season. This was just an amazing day for us girls! It's one thing to win a race, but having your teammates on each side of you on the podium and a third one in fifth is just unbelievable."
Junior Anna Kocken followed as the runner-up, .26 seconds behind Romar. Kocken sat in fifth place after the first run, then shot up to second place after posting the second-fastest time during the second run of the day.
Sophomore Julie Bordeau completed Utah's podium sweep with a third-place effort after finishing just .28 seconds off Romar's pace. This was the Mrozine, France native's third straight podium effort and the seventh of her career.
This was Wilson's first victory this season and the third of his career. The Red Wing, Minn., native has now won three races over his career and has finished on the podium five times during his career.
"Today was one of the most rewarding and exciting day of my NCAA career," Wilson said. "I don't know the numbers, but to sweep the girl's podium and go 1 and 2 in the guy's race has to rank up there with one of the best team performances Utah has had. It just feels like something special is going on with this team right now. Of course, I feel good to be back on top again after a bit of a rough season, but the highlight of the day was how we executed as a team. We couldn't be happier."
Cohee finished .38 seconds behind Wilson to earn his sixth podium appearance this season and the eighth of his career.
In the 5/10km freestyle races at Bohart Ranch, Utah tied for second with 218 points. Colorado is the leader with 230 points.
The women's Nordic team ranked third with 103 points as senior Maria Graefnings led the way for Utah by winning the women's 5km freestyle. She picked up her second victory of her season and has been on the podium in four of the five races she has been in this season. Graefnings has won 10 races during her Utah career and has been on the podium 15 times.
In the men's 10km freestyle, Miles Havlick notched his fourth second-place effort of the season. He has now finished first or second 11 times over his career.
"Today was an exciting day," Havlick said. "It's an adjustment to come back to altitude after such a long time in Alaska. It's nice to have the opportunity to adjust before nationals 10 days from now. We really showed our depth with [Noyes] and Rolf [Figi] stepping up in a big way. It's great seeing Maria return to her dominance as well. Today was a crazy good start to the weekend."
Senior Didrik Smith placed fifth for his fifth top-effort of the year and the eighth of his career. Senior Rolf Figi turned in his eighth top-20 effort of the season with a 12th-place finish. Tom Smith placed 18th for his 19th top-20 performance.
The slalom event of the NCAA West Region/RMISA Championships will be ran tomorrow at 10 a.m., and the classic races begin at 9 a.m.