Skiers looking to qualify for NCAAs

For the U ski team, winning is everything, but the team’s goal this weekend goes beyond winning at the WSC/Regional Championships.

“Our main focus will be to finalize our NCAA qualifying positions,” said U ski coach Mike Sweeney.

Since this is the last meet before the NCAAs, the goal to make sure the team qualifies a full squad is imperative.

“It’s important for us to have enough people at the championships because typically, if you do not have a full team, then you will not have a good shot at the NCAAs,” Sweeney said.

Each team is allowed to qualify three people from each gender in each discipline.

The regional itself isn’t very important to the team, except that it is a chance for the Ute skiers to improve their season-long rankings in order to get a better qualifying position.

“The way we determine the season-long rankings is that we take the best two results throughout the season for a player, but if there is a guy who is tied for the lead, then we take the third or fourth meet to decide who goes,” Sweeney said.

For a team with the prestige of the U, winning is an obvious expectation. Yet with the injuries the team has had, winning the regionals is not the expectation this week.

The most recent injury to freshman Lauren Lattimer is huge in terms of the finish the Utes will have at the regionals.

“Obviously, that is a huge hit and it may be strong enough that we will not finish first or second at the regionals,” Sweeney said. “If our skiers perform well, I think we have a good chance to finish third or fourth.”

Her injury is serious.

“She has a leg cast and she is on crutches,” Sweeney said. “She has a tear in her right MCL and is a really big question mark.”

The injuries have mounted for the team throughout the season.

Besides Lattimer, the Utes have already lost Jess Kiesel and Elisha Stephens.

“Injuries have really set us back depth-wise, and it is hard to keep spirits up when we keep on getting hammered,” Sweeney said. “I have lost three front-line point scorers, and we have had to regroup from that.”

Along with those three, freshman Daniel Sonntag had a cold. Sweeney expects him to compete, but not perform up to the level that Sonntag is capable of.

The injuries have hurt the Utes in terms of winning meets throughout the entire season.

“We haven’t had the depth, so when somebody does make a mistake, we don’t have anyone to cover the score,” Sweeney said.

However, in the end, the NCAAs are all that matter, and the competition will equalize if the Utes qualify a full team.

“The silver lining to all these injuries is that at the championships, you can only have three players compete per position, and it equalizes the playing field,” Sweeney said.

So the key this weekend is not to win the tournament, but just to qualify.

“I feel confident that we can qualify a full team,” Sweeney said.

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