Home meet raises expectations for season

By Elizabeth From, Staff Writer

Despite being surrounded by the greatest snow on earth, only once every few years does the Utah ski team get to host a season meet. 2010 happens to be one of those years, however. For the athletes on the team, that’s even more motivation to perform well.

Coach Eli Brown said the team gets hungry for home meets and couldn’t be more excited to host its first meet of the season in January, marking two years since it last hosted.

The Utes claimed first place both days in their previous home meet in Park City. The meet was one of two in 2008 that the team finished on top.

“Having people out there really makes a big difference,” Brown said.

Brown is heading into his fifth coaching year with the Utes, and said he’s blown away by the commitment and motivation of his group. A few athletes have paid traveling costs out of pocket to train during the off-season, visiting Europe and surrounding areas, he said.
Because the team can only practice in Salt Lake City a few months out of the year, travel is almost always necessary to stay in shape, said Kyle Kung, a fifth-year alpine skier.

Kung, an Alaska native, moved to Utah to join the Park City ski team and was later recruited to ski for the U. He said he is excited for the upcoming season and is looking forward to training as a team again.

The athletes have been responsible for their own training and conditioning since March, but will resume team practices at the start of Fall Semester.

Beginning with team practices, the program will balance two different sides of the team and prepare athletes for their individual sports.

Nordic, or cross-country, skiing is a sport based on endurance and strength, demanding a lot of long-distance running and biking to maintain optimum fitness during the off-season. When the athletes on the nordic team aren’t training in the snow, they are covering miles on pavement and spending hours in the weight room, Brown said.

Those skiers who are part of the alpine team train in similar ways but focus more on regimens that will improve their speed and technique, Kung said. Alpine skiers are timed individually on different slaloms during meets and have to make sure they are practicing the best technique and perfecting their own personal system to improve times and avoid injuries.

Even with skiing being a particularly individual sport, Brown said he’s amazed with how much team effort there really is within his group.

“The big thing we all want to do is win the overall team award, which means everyone was performing well,” he said.

At the end of the past season, nine skiers graduated and opened a slew of spots for recruits. Brown said he had a lot of luck recruiting during the off-season and is confident in the athletes who have joined the program.

The incoming skiers will be adding to an already deep roster, including Norwegian sophomore Didrik Smith and All-American sophomore Nick Cohee, whom Brown views as top returners. Also returning is junior Eva Huckova, who placed second in the 2008 NCAA Championships in both slalom and giant slalom events.

The Utah Invitational will be held Jan. 11 in Park City and Jan. 12 at Soldier Hollow.

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