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

On Thursday, Jan. 11 the University of Utah alpine ski team will host the Utah Invitational at Snowbasin Resort, while the Montana State Invitational will take place on Saturday, Jan. 13 in West Yellowstone, Montana where the Nordic ski team will compete.  

At Snowbasin, the women will participate in the giant slalom run on opening day. The men will follow on Friday and both men’s and women’s will be in action on Saturday. The Nordic team also races on Saturday in the women’s 5-km and men’s 10-km freestyle races. On Sunday, Jan. 14 the women’s 15-km and men’s 20-km classic races take place at the Rendezvous Ski Trails.

Skiing director Kevin Sweeney is confident in this year’s team and the new talent that has joined the program. As the season progresses, he believes the newcomers will build their confidence as they continue to get more races under their belts.

“Our biggest challenge is having the newcomers understand what collegiate skiing is all about,” Sweeney said. “Scoring points for a team, maintaining their composure and finding the right balance to push themselves will be crucial for their individual performance.”

Heading into both invitationals, Sweeney expects to see top 10 results in each event. A key performance goal for the team this year is to have consistent scores throughout the season, with hopes to reach their end goal of making it on the podium for the NCAA National Championships.

For the Nordic team, 10-km classic and 20-km freestyle champion Martin Bergstrom spent time training during the fall, and he is determined to prove himself this year as team captain. On the alpine side, second place NCAA finalist Sam Dupratt is expected to be a front-runner for this weekend, as he has been continuing to improve his technique.

“Right now the whole team is trying to win the invitational and get as many points as we can,” said alpine skier and 2016 NCAA Slalom champion Julie Mohagen. “It’s also really important that everyone gets a good result under their belt and that they’re doing their all. These races really count towards the end of the season and for the NCAA championships. That’s the main focus right now, besides doing well for the overall invitational.”

Mohagen is looking forward to having the support of the ski community come to Snowbasin and cheer her and her team on.

“The ski team plays a huge role in supporting me. It helps always having a team around you supporting,” Mohagen said. “They always have your back, not just from an athletic standpoint, but as a person you always have friends and people that care about you. It’s really amazing to be a part of.”

An unusual snow season has made it difficult for the team to train like it normally would this time of year. However, Sweeney is sure that the lack of snow won’t hinder the squad’s confidence and mentality, as it’s in their blood and minds to know how to ski.

“We’re very fortunate to have an athletic department as a whole that recognizes what an integral part the mental training aspect of performance is,” Sweeney said.

g.cefalu@dailyutahchronicle.com

@giannamc5!

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