Utah Ski Brings Home 14th National Championship

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University of Utah Ski Team member Sydney Palmer-Leger in a race. (Image courtesy of Utah Athletics)

By Emily Dush, Sports Writer

 

The NCAA Championships for the University of Utah ski team was held in New Hampshire from March 10 through March 13, 2021, and the team was looking to win their 14th National Championship and 28th in all of program history. After last season being canceled due to COVID-19, the team experienced new challenges of trying to back up their 2019 Championship win. 

On the first day of the competition, the giant slalom was the first event up. The men took up the event with four Utes becoming All-Americans. Gustav Vøllo came in third on the event while fellow teammates Joachim Lien came in fifth and Wilhelm Normannseth finished in ninth place. Vøllo finished with the second-fastest time after his two runs while Lien had the fifth-fastest and Normannseth had the ninth-fastest time. 

On the women’s side, after Katie Parker’s first run, she had the fifth-fastest time. Sona Moravcikova was in 12th place after her first run and Katie Vesterstein was in 31st place. On Moravcikova and Vesterstein’s second run, they both did not finish due to falling on the run. Parker came in eighth place overall and earned her second All-American award. 

On the second day of the event, the Nordic team raced in the 5k classic where freshman Sydney Palmer-Leger won the national title for the race with a time of 15:50.7. Fellow Ute and former National Champion in the event Julia Ritcher came in second place with a time of 15:55.9. Utah had a clean sweep for first, second and third place as Novie McCabe came in third place with a time of 16:12. 

“I’ve coached for 30 years in college, and you definitely need to savor days like this because they don’t come around very often,” said Utah’s Director of Skiing Fredrik Landstedt to Utah Athletics. “Just amazing. The girls skied so well. We do have a very strong women’s team, but to get a sweep of the podium is just amazing.” 

The men competed in the 10k classic event where Luke Jager came in second place. Samuel Hendry finished in third place while Bjørn Riksaasen finished in fifth place in the event. 

The following day, the men’s and women’s slalom took place. Lien took fourth place in the event with a time of 1:29.99. Lien won another All-American award, his second of this championship. Vesterstein finished in 10th place and won her first All-American honor. Parker finished in 15th place and Moravcikova came in 20th place. 

On the final day, the Utah ski team came out on top by winning the 2021 NCAA National Championship. The final day was an extremely successful one as Palmer-Leger won the 15k Freestyle event, her second event of the tournament. Right behind her in the event were fellow Utes McCabe in third place and Ritcher in 19th place. 

The men raced in the 20k event where Hendry came in second place, Riksaasen came in 10th place and Jager came in 19th place. After this event, Utah won enough points to clinch the national championship title. Utah won the tournament with a total of 554 points. Utah’s ski program is looking forward to celebrating its victory after enduring the long, hard year by coming out on top. 

 

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@DushEmily