King of the hill

By By Tom Quinn

By Tom Quinn

Snorri Einarsson just keeps getting better and better.

After finishing second in Wednesday’s 10K freestyle, the freshman Nordic phenom captured the first national championship of his young career, narrowly edging Denver’s Rene Reisshauer in the men’s 20K classic.

The two were dead even for the last 100 meters of the race, but with the finish line rapidly approaching, Einarsson somehow found a higher gear and won the sprint by more than two seconds. The Tromso, Norway native barely had time to catch his breath before he was mobbed by an elated group of teammates and coaches.

“It was an unbelievable moment to be at the finish line with the team,” said U head coach Eli Brown. “This has been a great week, but to see Snorri crowned national champion was icing on the cake.”

Although Einarsson’s impressive showing was doubtlessly a highlight for the Utes, several other skiers came up big for Utah en route to the team’s fourth-place finish at the weekend’s National Championships.

Sophomore Sara Schweiger, who has skied well for the women’s Nordic team all season long, led the Utes with a 10th-place finish in the women’s 15K classic. Freshman Sarah MacCarthy wasn’t far behind, and finished 22nd overall.

“I am so proud of our girls for giving it their all,” said Brown of his dynamic duo. “They were definitely racing for more than just themselves.”

Unfortunately for Einarsson and Co., the Utes’ alpine team didn’t enjoy quite as much success as their Nordic counterparts. They battled miserable conditions from start to finish, and the inclement weather certainly had a negative impact on the relatively inexperienced Utes.

Defending national champion Scott Veenis led the men’s team with a pair of sixth-place finishes, while Mikaela Grassl and Chirine Njeim each contributed a pair of sixth-place efforts in the slalom and giant slalom, respectively.

Although the Utes put together a very respectable showing at this year’s championships, they aren’t content with their fourth-place finish.

“We had some strong individual performances and improved a lot from where we were last year,” Brown said. “It’s been a great experience, and I think next season we’ll be even better.”

While virtually all coaches end their respective seasons with a promise of future success, Brown’s talk of next season isn’t mere coach-speak. Utah, which was one of just a handful of schools to qualify a full team for nationals, will have all of its skiers back for its 2008 campaign.

Utah’s roster features primarily sophomores and freshmen, meaning that the vast majority are still getting their proverbial feet wet. With a little more experience under their collective belt, there is no telling how good the Skiin’ Utes can be.