Utah Nordic Ski Team Competes in UAF Invitational


University of Utah ski team member Sydney Palmer-Leger in a race. (Courtesy Utah Athletics)

By Max Valva, Sports Writer


The University of Utah ski team traveled to Fairbanks, Alaska to compete in a Nordic-only competition earlier this week. The University of Alaska Fairbanks hosted six college Nordic teams in the UAF Invitational. Teams competed in the 5k classical race and the 10k freestyle pursuit.

Although the Utes competed hard, they were unable to win the invitational, finishing a point and a half under Colorado. Utah put up a combined 339 points between both the women and the men, compared to Colorado who barely edged them out with a score of 340.5. It was still an impressive performance being that Utah was shorthanded three Nordic skiers due to Olympic participation. 

“It was a rough day today,” said Fredrik Landstedt, head director of Utah skiing. “Being without [our Olympians] today hurt us in the team points. That said, Sydney [Palmer-Leger] had an incredible race once again, and Abby Jarzin also raced very well. The boys hung tough, as did Karianne Dengerud, but dealing with the cold temperatures was difficult.”

One key reason why Utah was able to stay competitive in this invitational was largely due to the incredible effort put up by the women’s side. Palmer-Leger won Tuesday’s 5k event with a time of 15:48:2 which she followed up with a win in the 10k freestyle event on Tuesday. This marks her fourth and fifth college wins of the season in a very impressive stretch for her. Julia Richter and Dengerud finished in second and third place during Tuesday’s 5k event, which means that all three of the participants on the podium for the Women’s 5k Classical were Utes. This marks the third podium sweep for the Utah ski team this season.

“It was great to have Sydney in the top spot again,” stated head Nordic coach Miles Havlik in regards to Palmer-Leger’s remarkable performances. “Having Julia and Karianne joining on the podium as well, is a good indication that they are coming into form.”

While the winner of Wednesday’s freestyle was determined by straight-up order across the finish line, the pursuit winner is a combined score between both days of competition or the pursuit time. 

“Today’s pursuit start was challenging to start first, but I tried to stay calm and controlled the first lap,” Palmer-Leger said in regard to her pursuit victory. “Then [I] went as hard as possible the next lap. It was amazing having the course lap around through the stadium a couple times so I could see the coaches and get feedback. It feels really good to be out there on the course racing well, and being able to share the excitement with the team.”

The men’s team put up a good effort as well, with freshmen Walker Hall and Brian Bushey finishing 6th and 7th for the Men’s 5k Classical on Tuesday. Bushey followed this up by finishing in 9th place for the Men’s 10k Freestyle event right behind fellow Ute Samuel Hendry, who finished in 8th. 

The Nordic teams stay in Fairbanks and will compete this weekend in the RMISA Invitational, where they will look to achieve a first-place finish.


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