Go Utes!
Go Utes!
Utah Skiing Posts Two Podium Efforts on First Day at NCAA Championships

Utah senior Maria Graefnings won her second career national title Saturday in the 5k freestyle at the NCAA Championships.

Utah senior Maria Graefnings won her second career national title Saturday in the 5k freestyle at the NCAA Championships.

March 7, 2012

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BOZEMAN, Mont. - Senior Maria Graefnings won her second national title and Miles Havlick finished as the runner-up to lead the University of Utah ski team in the Nordic Freestyle races on the first day of the NCAA Championships at Bohart Ranch.

After the first day at the NCAA Championships, the Utes stand in third place with 179 points. Utah trails leaders Dartmouth by 31 points (214) and runner-up Vermont by four (183). Host Montana State is slated fourth after Day 1 with a total of 176 points, while defending national champion Colorado is tied for fifth with Northern Michigan at 154.

"Today, I was able to witness some of the most gutsy performances of my coaching career," Utah Director of Kevin Sweeney said. "We had stellar podium performances resulting in a national champion as well as two additional All-America results scoring in the top 10. We also had two athletes race today, who had you asked me 24 hours ago if they would have been in the start gate, I would have said absolutely not. Illness struck the team at the worst possible moment and we had to dig deeper than I think we have all season. The end result is that we are in the hunt and I could not be more proud and humbled by how the team opened today. I think this has us more motivated than ever before as we eye day two of the championships."

The Ute women earned 74 points in the women's freestyle competition, finishing just one points shy of tying Alaska Anchorage for third.

"I think our race today embodies the intrigue of sport," Utah Head Nordic coach Abi Holt said. "You really just never know what is coming. We have had an unbelievable season and two weeks ago, we had a full team of healthy skiers who could not wait for the opportunity to demonstrate their brawn at the NCAA national championship. Today, Maria skied her way to a national title, Miles was second, Didrik earned an All-American finish, Tom skied a solid race, and Rose and Parker dragged themselves out of bed for the first time in two days after a severe bout of food poisoning. So today, our team saw months of hard work and preparation culminating in the best and worst possible scenarios -- podium finishes and a bit of ill-timed bad luck. I am proud of all these athletes. I wish they had all had a shot at feeling their best for the race today, but I know that every one of them showed up and gave it all they had. As a coach, there is nothing more I can hope for. This is a great group of athletes and I am looking forward to one more race with them on Friday."

Senior Maria Graefnings won her second career national title by taking first place in the women's 5k freestyle. In addition to winning last season's 15k classical title, she has now earned five All-American honors over her career and has won a total of 12 races as a Ute. The Falun, Sweden native has won her last three races and this was her fourth victory in seven races during the 2012 season. She has placed on the podium five times this year and 17 times during her two seasons at Utah.

"This was a great day," Graefnings said. "I am so happy to be the national champion. The conditions were awesome, sunny and fast! I want to send a big thank you to the whole team. They were a big part of my victory. I can't wait to see the Alpine team compete tomorrow. Go Utes!"

In her NCAA Championships debut, junior Parker Tyler gutted out a 20th-place effort and was just .07 seconds behind Beth Taylor of Bates College for 19th place. She has finished 20th or better in all 11 races this season and 17 times over her career.

Senior Rose Kemp fought through adversity to finish as the third Utah scorer in the race and rounded out the Ute effort in 35th place during her third career race at the NCAA Championships.

In the men's event, the Utes posted 105 points, which was second among the participating teams.

Junior Miles Havlick took runner-up honors in the 10k freestyle race for the best finish of his career at the NCAA Championships. This was his second career podium finish at the national meet after finishing third in the 20k classical at last season's NCAA meet in Stowe, Vt. Havlick has been third or better in 10 or 11 races this season and has been on the podium 18 times in his three seasons as a Ute. The Boulder, Colo., native is now a four-time All-American.

"Today could not have been nicer, it was gorgeous," Havlick said. "We've battled hard all season and stepped up when we needed it most. Rose and Parker were unlucky the other night with some food poisoning, but have rested and I'm impressed that they were able to even put a bib on today. Huge congrats to Maria for her second NCAA title and big thanks to the coaches for great skis once again. It was amazing having the Alpine team out yelling hard for us to cheer us on. It was a huge help in the last few kilometers. Every day that passes, Rose and Parker will be getting stronger so we are all excited to show what the Utes can do in the mass start on Friday."

Senior Didrik Smith finished sixth overall to earn Second-Team All-American recognition and his third straight top-10 finish at the NCAA Championships. He finished sixth in the 20k classical at last year's national meet and fifth in the 10k freestyle. Smith has finished 10th or better in all nine races he has competed in this season and 22 times during his career.

Tom Smith was the third Ute to cross the finish line as he earned his second career top-20 effort at the NCAA Championships. Smith claimed 20th in last year's 20k classical event. The Bend, Ore., native has finished 20th or better in all nine of his races this year and 22 times over his career.

The Alpine events of the NCAA Championships begin tomorrow with the giant slalom races at the Bridger Bowl. The women's first run will begin at 9:30 a.m., while the men's first run is slated for 1 p.m. Tune into the action by watching the NCAA's live webcast at ncaa.com.

Senior Maria Graefnings won her second career national title on Wednesday at the NCAA Championships in Bozeman, Mont.

Miles Havlick finished second in the men's freestyle race on Wednesday.

Didrik Smith took sixth in Wednesday's men's freestyle race at the NCAA Championships.



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