Skiing: Utes Capture First Place at Colorado Invite

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Endre Bjertness

The Utah men’s and women’s ski teams competed in the Colorado Invitational in Steamboat Springs, Colo. last weekend, showcasing their skills as they came away from the competition with a first-place team finish with 649 points.

The Utes beat out skiing powerhouses Denver (587 points) and Colorado (583 points), who finished in second and third, respectively. Utah’s first-place finish their second of the year, and the Utes’ director of skiing Kevin Sweeney was very pleased with the way the team performed.

“I am extremely impressed with our overall team performance at the CU invite,” Sweeney said. “Super proud of our Utes.”

And if finishing in first wasn’t promising enough, the team will pay another visit to this same resort later in the season when much more is at stake, as the NCAA Championship is slated to take place at the same location in March. Having already recorded a great showing in last weekend’s race, Utah will be all the more excited to repeat that same kind of performance at the end of the season.

Despite the first-place finish, though, the Utes didn’t get off to the start they were hoping for as they ended the first day in the fifth-place spot. However, the day didn’t go without a standout individual performance. Freshman Julie Mohagen won her first race in her young career in the women’s slalom.

Utah head alpine coach Jaka Korencan can already see that the team has something special in Mohagen.

“Her potential is huge,” Korencan said. “Even though she is one of the youngest in the field, she is showing a high level of maturity.”

The Utes also had a winner in Day 2 of competition in Endre Bjertness, who took home first place in the men’s giant slalom, the first win of his career.

“I am really happy to win my first college race,” Bjertness said. “We had a great day for the team today, both on the alpine and Nordic side.”

As for the aforementioned Nordic side of things, Niklas Persson and Nick Hendrickson finished second and third in the men’s 10-kilometer freestyle race. On the women’s side, Veronika Mayerhofer found her place on the podium as she finished third in the women’s five-kilometer freestyle.

After a strong showing on the second day, Utah was in a prime position to close out the competition on top. The team did just that.

Persson kept up his strong performance from the previous day’s event and placed third in the men’s 20-kilometer classical race. Kevin Bolger finished right behind his teammate to capture the fourth spot, which ties his best career finish.

Mayerhofer also fed off of her strong showing from earlier in the meet by taking fourth in the women’s 15-kilometer classical race. She was pleased with the results individually and as a team.

“I think this weekend gave us all a self-confidence boost and positive energy for the second half of the ski season,” Mayerhofer said. “I am very happy with my race today.”

Utah’s next scheduled event is the New Mexico Invitational, which will take place Feb. 20 to 21.

b.jensen@dailyutahchronicle.com

@brock_jensen02

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