Skiers open NCAA Championships

The U ski team opens its bid for a 12th national title in Stowe, Vt., today at the 2005 NCAA Skiing Championships.

Only three other teams qualified a full 12-skier roster for the championships, which is a big advantage in the overall team competition.

Both the men’s and women’s giant slaloms are today, in the first of four events in the four-day competition. The 10/5-kilometer classical follows on Thursday, the slalom is on Friday and then the 20/15-km freestyle on Saturday.

“Our strength lies in the fact that we are solid in all disciplines,” said head coach Kevin Sweeney, adding, “We have yet to put it together 100 percent this season.”

Medal hopes for the Utes include junior Ben Thornhill, who is ranked third in the GS nationally and sophomore Daniel Sonntag, who is second in the freestyle. The U boasts a top-10 skier for every event.

Sweeney likes their chances.

“The alpine team is arguably the best squad on the collegiate circuit,” Sweeney said. “The cross-country team is balanced and will contend for top honors. We’re prepared to take this one down to the wire if need be.”

The team finished fifth at the West Regionals in Bozeman, Mont., last week and will need improved skiing if they hope to compete in Stowe, Vt.

One thing going in their favor will be the health of the nordic team, as Sonntag and Casey Simons are due to return from sickness on the men’s team, as is Sandra Gredig for the women.

Highlights will be shown on CBS at 11 p.m. on Saturday, April 23.

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