Jackson, N.H.--There is a nervous excitement growing among Dartmouth ski fans who were on hand at the NCAA Skiing Championships held at Jackson XC on Friday.
The Big Green, after three days of action completed, is in the lead for the second consecutive day (511 points), and has built a slightly comfortable advantage over second-place Denver (473 points) and third-place Colorado (429.0), the defending national champions.
Over the past 10 NCAA Skiing Championships, the team leading after three days, or after six events completed, has gone on to win the national title. It’s easy to see why Dartmouth fans are nervous going into the final day of slalom action at Attitash on Saturday (March 10). Recent history is on their side, but no lead seems large enough until the final standings are complete and official.
Northern Michigan nordic coach Sten Fjeldheim was handing out hugs and smiling from ear-to-ear at the end of the exciting women’s 15 K Classic nordic race, which saw two of his student-athletes battling for the 1-2 spots in a tight race down the stretch. And, for the second women’s nordic race in a row, the No. 3 skier was also his, as the Wildcats posted a 1-2-3 sweep for the second time during the 2007 NCAA Skiing Championships.
This marks the first time in NCAA history that any group of women skiers from one school has put together two 1-2-3 sweeps in one NCAA Championship.
The last time ANY NCAA Skiing Championship squad posted back-to-back 1-2-3 sweeps in the same championship was the Denver men’s nordic squad in 2000, which accomplished that feat in the 10K Freestyle and the 20 K Classic.
NCAA statisticians also discovered that the Vermont women had put together a 1-2-3-4 sweep in the 15K Freestyle during the 1989 NCAA Skiing Championships.
Leading the way for Northern Michigan was Lindsey Weier, but only by a narrow margin, as she finished with a time of 47:21.0 in the 15 K race, just edging out her teammate, Lindsey Williams (47:22.0), who had won the 5 K race on Wednesday. Both exhausted, they turned around to see teammate Morgan Smyth take third in 48:11.4.
“This is unbelievable, these women have trained so hard and so well,” said Fjeldheim. “They are just so professional about it. They balance their academics and athletics so well. I have been working with these two Lindsey’s for five years and we knew that someday they were going to do great things. They just really wanted this. As a coach this is just something that you dream about, and it is something that may never happen in a coach’s lifetime, and I have them to thank for it.”
Battling hard with the trio of Northern Michigan skiers all the way was fourth-place finisher Maria Moe Grevsgaard of Colorado, who completed the course in 48:12.2. She was followed in fifth place by Aurelia Korthauer of Alaska Fairbanks (49:19.0). All five earn first-team All-America honors for their outstanding efforts.
Rounding out the top 10 of which the final five are second-team All-Americans were Polina Ermoshina of New Mexico (49:27.2), Susan Dunklee (49:27.5) of first-place Dartmouth, Kristina Owen of Michigan Tech (49:33.8), Kasandra Rice of Alaska-Anchorage (49:59.4), and Sara Schweiger of Utah (50:20.1).
Dartmouth kept the pressure on Denver with a strong showing in the women’s classic race taking three of the top 12 spots.
In the men’s 20K Classic Nordic Race, there was a tremendous battle among the top four student-athletes and it never sorted out until the end of the last lap. It was a showdown between Snorri Einarsson of Utah and Wednesday’s freestyle winner Rene Reisshauer of Denver. However, it was Einarsson who took control of the race down the stretch to win it in 55:06.0 and earn 39 points for Utah.
“It feels great to win, that has been my goal the whole season, and that is what we have been working towards.” said Einarsson. “It was great for me, it was great for the team. We are happy about it. The course was great. It wasn’t what we expected. We expected wet weather and slushy conditions coming in, instead we got perfect tracks and the weather was great. There were a lot of people in the front at the start and I got unlucky and fell on the first lap. Once I got back in there I was able to stick with the leading guys and then take them on in the sprint.”
Reisshauer placed second in 55:08.1 and Marius Korthauer of Alaska-Fairbanks took home the bronze medal (55:15.9). Dartmouth’s Ben True held the lead earlier in the race and had the large Granite State contingent of the crowd cheering. He finished fourth in 55:19.8, giving the Big Green more valuable points toward a possible NCAA title on Saturday. The final first-team All-American was Colorado’s Matt Gelso, who crossed the line fifth in 55:41.6.
Earning second-team All-American honors were John Stene of Denver (55:50.7), seventh-place Martin Banerud of Northern Michigan, Michael Sinnott of Dartmouth, Juergen Uhl of Vermont, and Raphael Wunderle of Alaska Anchorage. Dartmouth, which has made it a otal team effort so far, had two skiers in the top 10.
The NCAA Skiing National Championhip team will be crowned on Saturday, March 10, as the competition concludes with the men’s and women’s Slalom. The women’s action begins at 9 a.m. and the men at 12:15 at Attitash’s Bear Peak.Results:
Photos by Talbot Photo