The RMISA regular season came to a close following two days of GS racing at Park City Mountain Resort. Utah expanded its lead on its home hill amid heavy snow and poor conditions that led to a canceled race.
The Utes came into the race with a big overall lead after a strong performance from their Nordic team. Junior Katie Parker led the Utes in a snowy first race on Thursday, Feb 11., to finish in sixth down the iconic 2002 Olympic venue. With soft conditions and a volatile finish field, Utah had a consistent performance on their home venue and were able to capitalize on a sunny second race for junior Sona Moravcikova to step into fourth.
“Our coach set the second race, so it was nice because we were prepared going into it,” said Moravcikova. “My mindset was to just ski as fast I can and have fun and that worked out really well.”
The University of Colorado (CU) had a whirlwind of a day after the Buffaloes had four top-10 finishers in the morning race before no women finished in the afternoon race, dropping their overall standing. Freshman Cassidy Gray captured her first GS win of her career in the morning with the fastest second run time in the field. Gray started in 18th before moving up to third her first run and claiming the victory on her second run. She led teammates Stef Flackenstien and Emma Hammergaard to have three of the four fastest runs in the second run, finishing fourth and eighth, respectively.
Meanwhile, Westminster got their momentum back on the familiar GS hill and had a strong opening race, with three skiers in the top five, including Hannah Saetherend in second and Julia Toivianien in third.
The second race was more volatile for the entire field — 30 of the 37 collegiate skiers finished the first race while just 20 finished the second race. Gray looked like she was on her way to a second victory with the fastest run on the first run but could not hold it together for the second, ending in a DNF. Toivianinen was on top once again, winning her fourth race of the season and led a Westminster podium sweep in the second GS race of the day with Saethereng and Lana Zbasnik by her side. Toivianinen captured her fifth podium finish of the season, and has finished in the top five of eight races after no podium finishes in her first collegiate season last year.
Montana State University (MSU) had a strong showing from Tegan Wold, Kristiane Bekkestad and Nellie Talbot, who all recorded top 10 finishes in the GS. Denver University (DU) sophomore Reece Bell was their top performer in 13th place while Amelia Smart, who won both slalom races just days prior, had a top finish of 14th. Recently reinstated University of Alaska (UAA) had an injection of energy going into the GS races, with three women finishing in the top 12.
The men had a brutal day against extremely rough conditions on Friday, Feb 12. Second-run execution was tough for many men looking to redeem themselves in the next race before officials canceled the second race of the day due to unsafe conditions.
DU’s defending GS national champion Tobias Kogler set the times to beat on the day, posting the fastest time on each run and picking up his first win of the season. Westminster’s Joachim Mjelde finished more than a second behind Kogler for second place, with his teammate Mikkel Solbakken in fourth.
The MSU Bobcats had a trio of men in the top 10 led by junior Louis Mühlen-Schulte, who recorded his sixth career podium finish in third, paving the way for his teammates Åge Solheim and Riley Seger who finished seventh and ninth, respectively. CU junior Filip Forejtek continued his streak of top five finishes, giving him six straight this season when he finished fifth ahead of his teammate Louis Fausa in sixth.
Despite the heavy snow and variable conditions, Utah extended the lead with a strong showing that produced four top-15 finishers. Freshman Wilhelm Normannseth was Utah’s top finisher, placing eighth in a field of 31 skiers and claiming his third top ten finish this season. Two places behind was senior Joachim Lien in 10th, who added to Utah’s lead in his first race of the season after he returned from racing in Europe. Seniors Tomas Birkner and Huston Philip rounded out the top-15 finishes for the Utes.
In the first run, Didrik Nilsen was leading his team of UAA Seawolves in fourth with later starters Mike Soetaert and Moro Bamber moving into the top 30 from later start positions in the first run. Soetaert and Bamber started in the first three positions in the second run and had the chance to move UAA further in the standings. Unfortunately, both fell short with a pair of DNFs as Nilsen moved back to 11th.
“The boys skied so well in the first run and we had a chance to really put the lid on some other teams,” said Sparky Anderson, head coach of the UAA alpine team. “Unfortunately the guys just didn’t execute on the second run. Huge disappointment all around. We’re training now and preparing for next week. The good news is that our team is skiing fast across the board, we just need better execution and consistency.”
The collegiate season saw a condensed and adjusted schedule due to COVID-19 restrictions, where the regular season norm was to have two races in one day. Many alpine teams have come out with strong performances in the first race before being met with challenges and variable finishes in the second. The good news for teams like CU — who had its best performance of the season in the morning of Feb. 11. and one of their worst in history in the second race — is the postseason RMISA Championships and NCAA Championships will return to the traditional program of one race per day for skiers.
The alpine teams will stay in Utah and continue training this week as they prepare for the RMISA Championship at Park City starting Thursday.