Men’s Alpine Squad Helps Buffs Keep Lead At Own Invite

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ELDORA, Colo.—After an up and down day led by career or near-career best finishes from the entire men’s alpine team, the University of Colorado ski team slightly extended its lead here Sunday with men’s and women’s slalom races as part of the Spencer James Nelson Memorial Invitational.

“It was a bitter sweet day,” Rokos said. “The guys had a field day today, and the girls had one major disaster. It’s hard to point a finger on where it wall started, but the bottom line is most of the girls did no ski to their potential or even their standard, too many mistakes were made. And on top of that it’s our home hill, so the expectation is that they take advantage of it.”

Essentially dueling with Utah in the team standings after the conclusion of the Nordic races, the Buffs outscored the Utes 94-67 in the men’s slalom race to extend their lead to 52 points and then the Utes outscored the Buffs 71-52 in the women’s slalom race to bring their deficit back down to 33 points.

As it stands through six of eight races, the Buffs lead with 508 points to Utah’s 475. Denver is third with 429 points followed by Alaska Anchorage (353), New Mexico (340) and Montana State (317).

Junior Kasper Hietanen earned his first career podium appearance, finishing third in the men’s slalom race in a time of 1:44.66, and two more Buffaloes were right after him with Henrik Gunnarsson taking fourth in a time of 1:44.87 and Adam Zika fifth in 1:45.13.

“I was able to hit two solid runs and I’m excited about it,” Hietanen said. “We’ve been training well, we’ve had good training on this hill. We have the home advantage and we had a lot of friends come up to watch the race.”

What makes the performance more special is all three of those skiers are in some progression of returning from injury. Hietanen most recently had surgery this past summer and his status for the season was up in the air.

“Kasper was on the bubble until practically Utah whether he’d ski this year,” Rokos said. “He had surgery in early spring and his summer rehab didn’t go too well, he was still in pain and not healing. He is still overcoming some discomfort, but he’s capable to handling it well, the bottom line with the little training he’s had, he’s having an excellent season.”

“I haven’t been able to train much at all, I started training after Christmas, and I’m surprised at how well I have I’ve been doing done because of that, so it builds confidence,” Hietanen added.

“I’m really proud of Kasper, getting third today and earning one of Spencer’s belt buckles (the podium prize for the Invitational, presented by Spencer’s parents), his first,” Zika said. “Especially since we didn’t know if he was even going to ski this year.”

Gunnarsson’s fourth place finish matches the second best of his career, behind a third place slalom finish he obtained at the New Mexico Invitational two years ago. He also placed fourth in slalom twice that season, but he’s already surpassed his season best of seventh place from 2014.

“It was my first solid finish this season, so I’m happy about that,” Gunnarsson said. “This was the first time for the guys that we performed like we can. I haven’t been feeling that great in slalom, I just got some new boots and feel a lot better now so I feel good that I can do what I’m supposed to do. Every time you perform well it’s a confidence booster.”

Zika earned his second career top five slalom performance, like Gunnarssson also just one placement off his career best of fourth he obtained at the 2012 RMISA Championships. He injured his knee and missed the entire 2013 season and was still recovering as a redshirt sophomore in 2013. He’s finally getting back to the results he enjoyed as a freshman when he won an individual NCAA Championship in GS.

“I’m kind of having flash backs, it’s nice to be back in the top five and top 10, it’s been two years, I feel more confident this season than last,” Zika said. “We’re a good group, we had some injuries, but we’re getting back, we know that we were fast and that we will be fast again and the results are starting to show that we can compete with all the other schools.”

In addition to three of the top five, all five Buffs finished in the top 13 of the race. Roger Carry, starting 30th, finished 10th in a time of 1:48.63 and Cameron Smith, starting 34th, finished 13th in a time of 1:49.27. The Buffs were the only men’s team to finish all of its skiers, as only half the field finished, with 36 of 72 overall skiers and just 23 college skiers finishing, with another six or seven having to hike.

“I’m happy with my finish and I think all the guys did well together, getting the best results of the season, hopefully we can keep the momentum,” Zika said. “Cam and Roger did a great job especially after not skiing on that great of a course in the first run. But we’re on our home hill, we know some secrets of the hill and that helps.”

As well as the men’s team did, the women’s team struggled aside from junior Thea Grosvold, who finished seventh in a time of 1:50.07 and freshman Dani Brownell-Patty, who started in 38th and moved all the way up to finish 18th in a time of 1:54.34.

“Dani was the stand out today, skiing above her standard,” Rokos said. “She has that potential and she hasn’t yet capitalized on it. If she can move through the field and earn some better start positions, it will just accelerate her improvement.”

Proof that she’s taken her skiing to the next level, Grosvold, who won the first slalom race of the season at the Utah Invitational, wasn’t thrilled with her second run and seventh place finish in Sunday’s race, even though that placement matched her season best from each of the past two seasons.

“The first run was pretty good, I still felt like I couldn’t been faster,” Grosvold said. “The second run was rough, a couple gates had holes and some pretty good tracks. I made it down but I’m not happy with the second run. I need to work on that, when it’s rough, especially in college, you’ll have runs like that. Last year I wasn’t better than seventh, and now I’m not that happy about seventh place. I’m skiing a lot better and I think there’s a lot more to come and I’m focusing on that.”

The rest of the Buffs struggled with senior Shane McLean hiking on the first run and senior Brooke Wales and junior Clare Wise hiking on the second run. Junior Jessica Honkonen and sophomore Katie Hostetler did not finish the second run. Wales finished 25th in a time of 2:07.11, Wise 26th in 2:13.98 and McLean 27th in 2:21.24.

Grosvold said she expects the women’s team to rebound Monday, “We’re pretty strong in GS, maybe even stronger, and none of the girl’s teams did that well today, so we can really take advantage tomorrow. We know this hill, this is what we train on, we know what to expect, we had some bad luck today but tomorrow we’ll be back.”

Added Rokos, “I will motivate them, I will make sure that happens, it’s my mission.”

The CU Invitational will conclude with Monday’s men’s and women’s giant slalom races. The teams will hang out in Eldora one more day, however, for a GS qualifier race on Tuesday, but it will not count toward team scoring.

Colorado Invitational Team Scores (4 events)—1. Colorado 508; 2. Utah, 475; 3. Denver 429; 4. Alaska Anchorage 353; 5. New Mexico 340; 6. Montana State 317; 7. Westminster 68; 8. Colorado Mountain College 19.

Men’s Slalom (23 finishers)—1. Trevor Philp, DU, 1:43.70; 2. Sebastian Brigovic, DU, 1:44.13; 3. Kasper Hietanen, CU, 1:44.66; 4. Henrik Gunnarsson, CU, 1:44.87; 5. Adam Zika, CU, 1:45.13; 6. Andy Trow, UU, 1:45.60; 7. Carl-Johan Oster, UNM, 1:47.05; 8. Endre Bjertness, UU, 1:47.10; 9. Cedrik Gagnon, UAA, 1:48.50; 10. Roger Carry, CU, 1:48.63; 11. Hughston Norton, UAA, 1:48.80; 12. Curtis McKillop, UAA, 1:49.10; 13. Cameron Smith, CU, 1:49.27; 14. Sean Alexander, UAA, 1:49.71; 15. Graham Black, CMC, 1:52.07; 16. Garret Driller, MSU, 1:56.09; 17. Dominic Demschar, UU, 2:00.57; 18. David Owsley, MSU, 2:04.27; 19. Max Marno, DU, 2:05.21; 20. Martins Onskulis, UAA, 2:07.43; 21. Taylor Shiffrin, DU, 2:10.16; 22. Alex Leever, DU, 2:28.20; 23. Sean Horner, UNM, 2:50.68. Did Not Finish: Tim Lindgren, WMC; Juho-Pekka Penttinen, UNM; Joergen Brath, UU; David Herzog, WMC; Giulio Bosca, WMC; Mark Miller, UNM; David Neuhauser, MSU; Michael Bansmer, WMC; Tim Hribar, UU; Miachel Radford, MSU.

Women’s Slalom (27 finishers)—1. Monica Huebner, DU, 1:45.71; 2. Anna Goodman, WMC, 1:47.68; 3. Ana Kobal, UU, 1:48.22; 4. Ann-Kathrin Bruening, WMC, 1:49.17; 5. Sydney Staples, UNM, 1:49.33; 6. Tianda Carroll, DU, 1:49.52; 7. Thea Grosvold, CU, 1:50.07; 8. Courtney Altringer, UNM, 1:50.31; 9. Benedicte Lyche, MSU, 1:50.82; 10. Mateja Robnik, UNM, 1:50.84; 11. Chloe Fausa, UU, 1:51.59; 12. Natalie Knowles, DU, 1:52.05; 13. Sara Ottosson, UNM, 1:52.22; 14. Devin Delaney, DU, 1:52.22; 15. Stephanie Irwin, MSU, 1:52.66; 16. Lauren Samuels, UU, 1:53.15; 17. Taylor Grauer, UNM, 1:53.77; 18. Dani Brownell-Patty, CU, 1:54.34; 19. Tenaya Driller, MSU, 1:56.24; 20. Katherine Lamoureuz, UAA, 1:59.86; 21. Isabella Andreini, UAA, 1:59.87; 22. Taegan Palmer, UU, 2:00.63; 23. Audrey Hume, UAA, 2:03.16; 24. Emma Naatz, DU, 2:04.11; 25. Brooke Wales, CU, 2:07.11; 26. Clare Wise, CU, 2:13.98; 27. Shane McLean, CU, 2:21.24. Did Not Finish: Tonje Sekse, WMC; Kristiina Rove, UU; Kari Hole, MSU; Nora Eide, UU; Marie Aufrere, WMC; Elizabeth Koprucki, MSU; Charley Field, UAA; Devon Clark, WMC; Bridget French, DU; Madeline Johnson, CMC; Katie Talbot, CMC; Karoline Myklebust, UNM; Kristine Haugen, DU; Jessica Honkonen, CU; Sofija Novoselic, WMC; Marion Hudry, UAA; Anna Berecz, UAA; Katie Hostetler, CU.

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