This past weekend the University of Utah ski team had dominating performances from both the Nordic and Alpine teams. Utah finished 2nd overall at the Montana State Invitational behind Colorado with 581.5 points, while the alpine squad took 5th place with a score of 239.5 points.
The first day of the Utah Invitational kicked off with alpine skier Ann-Kathrin Breuning earning a fourth place finish in the women’s giant slalom. Julie Mohagen tied for eighth and Sabine Krautgasser took 19th place.
On the men’s side, three skiers placed in the top 10. Sam Dupratt finished eighth, while Linus Walch and Martin Grasic both had personal bests. Walch finished in 5th place and Grasic earned a 9th place finish.
Director of skiing Kevin Sweeney was pleased with the Utes’ effort and preparation. He feels that Utah has even greater potential to defend its NCAA title this season.
“On the optimistic side, we really did have some good results. The upside is that we prepared and we really charged hard, but I think on the downside we made a few mistakes that cost us quite a few points,” Sweeney said. “We know we can improve and ski better than we did, but we saw some really nice individual performances that resulted from some good training. It has been a good weekend, both motivating and confidence building.”
On the Nordic side, Martin Bergström clinched both the men’s 10-km classic and freestyle, making it his fifth victory of his career. His leadership and experience on the team inspired his teammates. Håkon Hjelstuen and Bjørn Riksaasen finished in the top 10 on Sunday, with Hjelstuen in 6th and Riksaasen in 7th place.
Sweeney was impressed with the Nordic team’s ability to place on the podium and have multiple top 10 finishes.
“I’m very happy with the nordic performance, and a little surprised. As a group, we bounced from a pretty difficult travel situation coming back from US Nationals in Alaska,” Sweeney said. “There is some of that illness that affects all teams, including us. We weren’t quite sure about how this weekend went, but were plenty surprised that this team rallied.”
Guro Jordheim finished 3rd in the women’s 5-km classic, and she won the women’s 10-km freestyle. Karianne Moe had a season best finish in 14th place, and a 17th place finish went to Mariah Bredal.
Jordheim felt confident going into the alpine invitational, and she knew she had done everything mentally and physically possible to prepare for her races.
“I was so happy with my overall performance. The 10-km freestyle was my first college win and I’m stoked,” Jordheim said. “This victory gave me even more confidence to get me to my end goal to win NCAA. My teammates and I all train together every day and make each other better. To have people motivate and support you is a really good feeling.”
Sweeney is taking the results of both invitationals as a confidence builder for his skiers. His main focus for both teams is to stay healthy and get more experience training. The lack of snow in Utah has forced the team to host nordic races of the Utah Invitational in West Yellowstone, Montana. The invitational gets underway on Thursday, Jan. 18.