Over the weekend, the University of Utah ski team finished in third place at the Utah Invitational, which was hosted in West Yellowstone, Montana, with a total of 599.5 points. Denver placed first in the meet with 650 points and Colorado placed second with 636 points.
On the first day of action, seven Utah skiers placed in the top-10. Guro Jordheim finished third to lead the women in the 5-km classic race, while Martin Bergström added his own third place finish in the men’s 10-km classic. Also in the 5-km, Maria Bredel took sixth place and Leah Lange was right behind her with a seventh place finish, making it her first top-10 finish in her career thus far.
For the men, three more skiers finished in the top-10 in the 10-km classic including Bjorn Riksaasen in fourth place, making it his first top five finish of his career. Logan Diekmann earned his second top-10 finish of the year with an eighth place finish and Hakon Hjelstuen finished in 10th.
Nordic skier Hakon Hjelstuen was pleased with the Utes’ efforts and performances at the Utah Invitational, and he was thrilled about how well Utah supported each other.
“The team was feeling really confident and everyone wanted to do well. The coaches were on top of their game, and you could see it in their eyes that they really wanted us to perform well,” Hjestuen said. “All of us were digging as hard as we could, and it was inspiring to see how hard the team was fighting. There’s always someone new on the team to push me to do better.”
On Friday, Hjelstuen clinched first in the men’s 20-km freestyle — this was not only his first podium finish, but his first career victory. He joins Bergström as the second Nordic skier on Utah to win on the RMISA circuit this year. Bergström finished fourth overall, making it his sixth top-four appearance this season. Rikaasen had his fourth-straight top-10 finish as he took sixth place. Diekmann finished 10th and Jacob Engström finished 16th.
Gordheim clinched the women’s 15-km freestyle race, making it her second-straight victory after winning at the Montana State Invitational. Leah Lange and Mariah Bredel also joined her in the top-10, with Lange in 9th and Bredel in 10th.
Head Nordic coach Abi Holt is grateful the team had the opportunity to stay in Montana and race there, due to Utah ski conditions. She is proud of what her team was able to accomplish over the two days.
“I’m happy with the team’s performance this week. It was nice to go off on a high note with so many breakthrough performances,” Holt said. “That was the end of the first half of the season. We have six races under our belts and six more to go before championships. It motivates everyone and keeps that bar set high. Now we have 10 days before we leave for our next trip, so we get a little training block, and everyone is feeling motivated to keep the momentum going.”
Utah will be back in action on Saturday, Feb. 3, for the New Mexico Invitational.