Skiing: Utes Finish in Third Place at Montana State Invitational

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University of Utah ski team hosts the Utah Invite where various teams compete in Nordic ski racing at Soldier Hollow, in Heber Utah on Sunday and Monday, January 10-11, 2015

The Utah men’s and women’s ski team competed in the Montana State Invitational last weekend at Bohart Ranch in Bozeman, Montana. The Utes had a solid performance as they finished third-place overall in the invite behind winner Denver and Colorado.

The events were spread out over four days in a two-week span. Though Utah performed well each day, the final races on Monday capped off its great weekend. Utah was led by Veronika Mayerhofer, who captured second place in the women’s 15-kilometer race on the final day of the competition.

“My skis were fast, and I had great kick,” Mayerhofer said. “I fought hard, and I am very happy with my second place today.”

Utah was coming off its first weekend of the invite after both the men’s and women’s slalom and giant slalom. Utah Nordic coach Abi Holt said the team responded well after the prior week’s races and the start of spring semester classes.

“The team did a great job of just putting their heads down to plow through the first week of classes and more training before getting back in the van to head to Bozeman,” Holt said.

On Saturday, two Utes found their place on the podium in the Nordic freestyle races. Nick Hendrickson nearly finished first in the men’s 10-kilometer race, finishing just 0.6 seconds behind the race winner. Hendrickson recognized the opportunity that was there, and although he came up less than a second short of first, he knew it was a solid performance.

“I think I skied a good race, but I lost a few seconds towards the end of the course and missed the win by 0.6 seconds,” Hendrickson said. “But that’s racing.”

The women’s team was also able to match the strong performance of the men’s team. Sloan Storey finished third, followed by her teammate Mayerhofer in fourth. The tandem continues to provide consistent racing as they both have yet to finish outside of the top five so far this year.

The Utes entered the final day in third place out of the five competing teams. Though unable able to make the jump to second, they were able to hold off the other two teams to keep them in the third position. The final day of the invitational provided a unique weather challenge for the athletes, as the conditions weren’t exactly ideal.

“Today’s classic race was really tough. Snowy but wet conditions made the race very slow,” Niklas Persson said after finishing fourth in the men’s 20-kilometer race. “Everyone struggled out there today, but considering the circumstances, I guess I can’t be too disappointed.”

Utah’s director of skiing Kevin Sweeney was overall happy with the way the team performed.

“I was very impressed with this group,” Sweeney said. “ We didn’t necessarily score our best; as a whole, though, I think we really charged.”

The Utes will travel to Steamboat Springs, Colorado this weekend for the Colorado Invitational. Events will start on Friday and will go through Sunday.

b.jensen@dailyutahchronicle.com

@brock_jensen02

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