The opening NCAA alpine races of the season wrapped up at Eldora in Nederland, Colo., with four slaloms at the Spencer James Nelson Memorial Invitational on Jan. 12 and 13.
Following the GS races held in Aspen earlier this week, seven collegiate teams competed in back-to-back slaloms in Eldora to finish up the University of Denver (DU) and University of Colorado (CU) invitationals. The women came into the slalom races with near-perfect conditions. Utah newcomer Madison Hoffman took advantage of the opportunity and brought home her first career race in the morning. Westminster’s Julia Toiviainen, who finished second in the morning race, won the afternoon and has now won three of the four races early in the college season.
Westminster (181) continued to lead the meet while Utah (165) closed the gap with sophomore Katie Vesterstien earning a podium finish, third, in the second race, immediately followed by Hoffman. Michelle Kervén was the third member of the Utes to finish in the top 10 in eighth. Strong runs by the ladies left Utah sitting only 16 points behind Westminster going into the men’s races.
Montana State (MSU) sophomore Tegan Wold stood out for MSU with a pair of top five finishes, including a runner-up showing in the second race of the day. MSU had a dominating pursuit in the first race with Kristiane Bekkestad finishing fourth, Wod in fifth, and Brynne Hitchcock in sixth. The women’s performance kept MSU in third in the overall standings with 139 points.
The University of Alaska Anchorage (UAA) women’s ski team posted four top-10 finishes across the two slalom races. In the first race, Li Djurstaal finished a team best eight, followed by teammate Rebecca Fiegl in ninth. Fiegl capitalized on confident skiing going into the second run and finished in fifth place while Georgia Burgess finished 10th. The UAA skiers strong performance was enough to surpass CU (126.5) in the overall standings, moving into fourth with 128.5 points.
Despite moving back in overall standings, CU junior Kaitlyn Harsch and senior Isabelle Fideland both secured the best finishes of their careers, finishing sixth and ninth, respectively, with Fideland picking up a pair of ninth-place finishes after starting each race in 45th place.
Rounding out the women’s rankings were Colorado Mountain College scoring 89 points while DU, with just one skier who didn’t finish either race, did not score.
Conditions drastically changed for the men on Wednesday — strong winds and warm temperatures in the forecast broke down the hard snowpack and required the men to move up the schedule to avoid high winds in the afternoon.
It was Utah’s Bjorn Brudevoll who captured the first race, which came as surprise after a challenging second run. Brudevoll wasn’t able to carry that momentum into the second race, as he was disqualified in the first run. His teammate Gustav Voello was leading the first run of the second race but had a disappointing second run, dropping him into 15th. Wilhelm Normannseth held onto Utah’s podium by finishing in third on the second race.
Westminster’s Mikkel Solbakken had a strong first race finish for his team, finishing just behind Brudevoll with teammate Francesco Gori in fourth. In the second race Armando Brando Gori kept Westminster near the top spot in second, with three more of his teammates rounding out the top ten. Westminster extended their lead in the overall standings by 112.5 points ahead of Utah.
In the second race CU junior Filip Forejtek took home his first collegiate win, taking the second men’s slalom and helping the Buffaloes move ahead to fourth place in the overall standings. In his career, he’s had six second-place finishes before he landed the top spot. Teammate Louis Fausa helped extend CU’s lead by capturing a sixth-place finish from bib 37 in the first race.
MSU’s momentum continued strong for the men with junior Louis finishing in third place in the morning race, setting the pace for two of his teammates to finish in the top ten. Aage Solheim led the Bobcats in fourth in the second race, moving up from his fifth place finish earlier that morning. Mühlen-Schulte rounded out the top ten in ninth, clenching enough points to sustain a third place ranking in the overall standings.
For Alaska Anchorage it was Michael Soetaert who led the team with an eighth place in the first slalom. Teammate Moro Bamber was one sport behind in ninth, but ultimately fell short to hold their fourth-place lead after CU’s win. CMC athletes Henry Hakoshima and Louis Nguyen progressed going into the second race, both finishing in the top 30. Unlike the day prior, DU had three men on the start list and were able to score additional points to wrap up the series.
Just four days into the 2021 season, the alpine teams are now 50% complete with the regular season. Alpine teams will pick up action in February in Utah with five days of racing Feb. 8-12 before closing out the regular season and commencing the RMISA Championships, also in Utah, from Feb. 18-19.
Montana State (583)
Alaska Anchorage (437.5)
Colorado Mountain (295)
Alaska Fairbanks (0)