Kristiina Rove and Chloe Fausa (right) celebrate their podium finishes in the giant slalom.
March 5, 2014
PARK CITY, Utah - Mark Engel won the NCAA men's giant slalom national title and Kristiina Rove and Chloe Fausa finished second and third respectively in the women's GS race to lead Utah after day one of the 2014 NCAA Skiing Championships.
Utah holds a 35-point lead (165 points) in the team standings over Denver and New Mexico (130), who are tied for second. Defending NCAA champion Colorado (127.5) and Vermont (101) round out the top five. It is the third time the host school has led after day one in the last 25 years, and it is Utah's first day-one lead at the NCAA Championships since 1996. It is also the second-largest first-day lead since 1983--when the men's and women's competition was combined (the widest margin was 42.5 points by Denver in 2010).
Engel is Utah's first men's alpine national champion since Scott Veenis (now an assistant coach with the U.S. Ski Team) won the giant slalom in 2006. Utah has had at least one NCAA champion every year since 2010.
"It's unbelievable. It feels really good," Engel said after the race. "This hill always skis tactically the same way. You have to hold back in a spot and then go for it in another spot. So, if you ski the hill [a lot] it definitely helps.
"I slowed down a bit, but the course was really turny right there, so it wasn't the worst move," said Engel about a near fall early in the second run. "So, I had a mistake and had to slow down, but it really set me up nicely for the next section. Just slowing down a little into the turns (there) helped me. It was a little bit bumpier on the second run and little bit harder to see because of the clouds. But the snow held up pretty nicely."
All three skiers earned first-team All-America honors. Engel, in his first season at Utah after spending two years on the U.S. Ski Team, has finished first or second in his last four races for the Utes. He has six top-five finishes this year. Rove earned her second career All-America honor in the giant slalom. It is her seventh podium finish of the season. Fausa, also in her first year at Utah, has four podium finishes this year.
Also earning All-America honors was Joergen Brath, who was a second-team All-American with a 10th-place finish. Brath has four top-10 finishes this year.
"There's no question I'm extremely impressed with our opening day," Utah head coach Kevin Sweeney said. "It's just one aspect of the championships, but it's definitely an important one because it's the opening event. It's a chance to see how competitive the alpine teams are going to be. It's a chance to come out and make a statement, and we did an outstanding job. We had some incredible skiing, and nobody was holding back. I am really, really impressed with how our team performed. We had some great momentum carrying over from regional championships."
Also contributing to Utah's scorers was Andy Trow in 14th and Ana Kobal in 15th for the women. Utah's men scored a race-high 78 points and the women scored 87 points, also a race high. "We could not be more excited about this opening day," Utah head coach Jaka Korencan said. "Congratulations to the whole team for unselfish and extremely brave performances in challenging conditions. This is an awesome confidence builder for both alpine and nordic. There is lots of racing left, and nothing is given in our sport and especially in four days of NCAA championships. We need to get some good rest and refocus for slaloms on Friday."
Every team struggled with changing conditions throughout the day, as the temperature climbed into the 40's.
"We are so proud of our athletes and their performance today," Utah assistant alpine coach Luke Patterson said. "Our group did a fantastic job of executing our game plan. There were a couple of our guys who had small mistakes that hurt otherwise great performances. We had an awesome day and our athletes did a great job."
The NCAA Championships continue on Thursday, March 6, with the nordic teams kicking off beginning with the women's 5-km classical race at 10:00 a.m., followed by the men's 10-km classical race at 12:00 p.m.