Skiers finish second at NCAAs

The U ski team failed in its attempt to win back-to-back championships at the NCAAs last week, but came close with a second-place finish, which left coach Kevin Sweeney content.

“We are very ecstatic about finishing second,” Sweeney said.

“With everything that has happened to us over the season, we should have finished fourth or fifth, but we have continued to battle all season,” he said.

Two of the Utes front-line skiers were out for the year and there were injuries throughout the entire team, which kept hurting the team throughout the season.

The injuries the Utes had to deal with left the team in shambles, but since the NCAAs only allowed three people per discipline for each team, the Utes had the ability to compete well against the other squads.

Not only was the competition equalized, but the fact that the team had the best cross-country skier in the nation went a long way for the Utes.

Henning Dybendal became the only men’s dual NCAA champion of the year, as he won both the freestyle and classical events.

“He has skied great all year and he is very deserving of this honor,” Sweeney said. “He has led the nordic squad all season.”

As a team, the Utes finished with 581 points, 42 points behind New Mexico, which won the title.

The Lobos blew away the field in their victory, but the Utes had a tough battle for second place.

Denver University finished 13 points behind the Utes with 568 points, while Colorado finished fourth with 564.

“We fought tooth and nail for our finish,” Sweeney said.

On the second day of the tournament, the Utes had a great day on slalom, which set them up for their second-place finish.

Ben Thornhill led the Utes, as he was the only skier to finish in the top 10 for the Ute men. Gaspar Perricone finished 12th, while Will McDonald snuck into the top 20 with an 18th-place finish.

The women didn’t do as well as the men, but they had an excuse. April Mancuso was the only Ute woman to finish in the top 10, as she finished ninth, but Rowena Hyldahl and Lauren Lattimer did not come through, finishing 19th and 24th, respectively.

However, Lattimer was dealing with a knee injury and fought through her run.

The week of the regionals, Lattimer was in a caste and could not walk, since she had a tear in her MCL.

“Lauren had a huge mistake opening up late, but did a great job of finishing strong,” Sweeney said.

On the final day, the other two classical skiers, Daniel Sonntag and Benjamin Sonntag finished 13th and 23rd, respectively.

Jenny Hansson led the women, finishing 10th, while Sandra Gredig finished in 13th place.

The emotional and physical hardships were a major detriment to the team throughout the season, but Dybendal knew the team was happy to just finish like it did.

“This was a great weekend,” he said. “The team struggled with injuries all season long, but it just feels great to end the season on a high note.”

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