Ute skiers train for NCAA championship

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Brent Uberty

Freshman Mark Engel competes in the men’s giant slalom at the Pat Miller Invitational in Park City in January. Photo by Brent Uberty.

Freshman Mark Engel competes in the men’s giant slalom at the Pat Miller Invitational in Park City in January. Photo by Brent Uberty.
Freshman Mark Engel competes in the men’s giant slalom at the Pat Miller Invitational in Park City in January. Photo by Brent Uberty.
The Utes’ ski team competed last weekend at the RMISA Championships in Colorado.
After Utah had consistently fallen after finishing first in its season opener, the Utes bounced back to finish the regular season with a win, tayllying a score of 640.
“Most of our team skied to their potential,” said freshman Mark Engel. “I think that was the first time we all collectively skied as good as we could.”
Junior Kristiina Rove had a similar take.
“Everything just fell into place,” she said. “Everyone did what they can do.”
Engel placed first in the slalom and second in the giant slalom for the men with times of 1:45.75 and 1:57.93 respectively. He was .43 seconds away from capturing first in the giant slalom.
Rove once again was the star for the women. She placed second to her teammate Chloe Fausa in the giant slalom with a time of 1:59.61 and then dominated the slalom with a time of 1:19.54. Fausa was the giant slalom champion for the women with a time of 1:58.77, though she placed only seventh in the slalom with a time of 1:21.85.
The Utes have spent the majority of the season dealing with undesirable skiing conditions, injury and top skiers being away at more lucrative competitions.This time the conditions were just right, Utah had everyone back and got in a groove that led to the win.
“It for sure brought some more confidence for our team,” Rove said. “It gives us more momentum heading into nationals.”
Engel echoed Rove’s sentiments.
“It also kind of motivates us to keep good spirits and train hard this week and believe in ourselves,” he said.
Utah will compete next in the NCAA Championships March 5-8, which the squad has qualified a full team of 12 skiers for.
“Going into this season, that has been the whole team’s focus — that we win this thing this year,” Rove said.
A huge advantage for the Utes going into the Championships is that they will be held in Utah, giving the team home-slope advantage. Warmer weather in the Wasatch Front will provide more preferable skiing conditions.
Snow will melt during the day and then freeze into ice overnight, creating faster skiing conditions that Utah will be practicing on for the next week leading up to the competition. Other teams won’t have this advantage.
“I think most of us prefer the warm weather,” Engel said. “It melts the snow and freezes at night, which is a better surface. But when it does get slushy, they can add salt to the course, and it makes it icy again. I personally ski better in those conditions.”
Denver and Vermont, the other legitimate contenders for the NCAA title, will be training in weather that can be 10 to 20 degrees cooler than Park City.
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