The 2018 NCAA National Championships hosted by the University of Colorado in Steamboat Springs kicked off with the men’s and women’s giant slalom races on Wednesday. The University of Vermont (UVM) currently holds the lead with 134 points in front of the University of Colorado (CU) with 130 points in second and the University of Denver (DU) in third with a 129 points.
The day started with both runs of the men’s race. After the decision to not groom the race slope on Tuesday night, conditions on Wednesday were perfect for a national championship.
Dartmouth College skiers Brian McLaughlin and Tanguy Nef took first and second place, respectively, with Nef finishing a slim 0.19 seconds back from his teammate. CU’s Ola Buer Johansen rounded out the podium in third.
“Today was a lot of fun!” said McLaughlin. “I skied well in the first run and tried a little bit hard in the second and just waited hopefully in the finish that it will be enough; it turned out pretty cool today as I was able to put my best forward.”
Montana State University (MSU), who showed strong team results during the regular season, has unfortunately all but taken themselves out of the running on day one. After having skied strong throughout the season, especially in GS, three of their six racers racers — two men and one woman — did not finish.
“We tried to sneak in for a podium in the overall,” said MSU head coach Kevin Francis. “We know we needed something special for this. For the slalom, we’ll ski with freedom as we have nothing to lose.”
DU was also not totally satisfied with Wednesday’s men’s results as their lone male finisher in the top 15 was Jett Seymour in seventh. Nevertheless, the women’s race went great for DU as freshman Amelia Smart took the win.
“The conditions have been great, my bib didn’t matter at all,” said Smart, who started the first run with bib 27. “I am really excited about this win and hope to continue on Friday.”
Tuva Norbye and Andrea Komsic also added an eighth and 11th place for the DU women.
The women’s race was super tight with the top three racers all within 0.06 seconds. Katharine Irwin of the University of New Mexico (UNM) finished in second, 0.04 second back, and UVM’s Paula Moltzan was third, 0.06 shy of the win.
Dartmouth’s women could not follow up the performance of their men’s team, however, as Foreste Peterson and Stephanie Curry did not finish and Alex Dlouhy only managed a 26th place.
“I think they wanted too much today,” said John Dwyer, Dartmouth women’s head coach. “We have a strong nordic team and anything can happen; we need to focus on us.”
Nevertheless, the DNFs leave Dartmouth with a large deficit after day one as they currently sit in fifth place with 96.5 points. After winning the NCAA East regionals and cementing themselves as the strongest team contender from the East, the Big Green will be looking for redemption in the coming days.
CU’s alpine head coach Richie Rokos is very satisfied with his team’s performance on day one and is set up well for another championship run.
“The boys did better than standard and the women showed what they can,” he said. “Preparation is one thing, finishing is another thing, regardless of GS or slalom. There is no guarantee.”
The defending champion University of Utah surprised on day one with just two starters in the women’s race. The Utes did only have three alpine women on their full roster and with Sabine Krautgasser currently nursing an inflamed nerve in her back, this means that Utah will also ski the women’s slalom with just two starters, making the mission to defend their title very difficult. Utah currently sits in fourth place with 103 points.
“This is unfortunate, but we don’t want to take it as a handicap,” said Utah head coach Jaka Korencan. “It is a motivation for all of us to step up and perform well. No excuse at all. We’ll keep fighting until the last skier has crossed the finish line of this NCAAs – anything is possible.”
The most solid team performance on Wednesday was that of UVM. Both their men’s and women’s teams skied well, finishing all six of their starters with five of them landing in the top 15.
“I gave them the motto for today – normal skiing is good enough — and that’s what they did and it’s great,” said UMV head coach Bill Reichelt. “We don’t need something special, which is often too risky. I think we hadn’t had all six athletes in the points of day one for the last couple of years.”
With UVM leading after day one by just 4 points ahead of rival CU and 5 clear of DU, the motto for the UVM alpine ski team will stay the same for the slalom races on Friday night – normal is enough.
On Thursday the nordic skiers will start with their first day of competition with the men racing a 10k classic and the women a 5k classic.
For complete results, click here.