Jason Clay (Colorado)
After having a few skiers earn All-RMISA honors, 12 members of the Utah ski team are marching into the NCAA Championships with confidence.
Sophomore Guro Jordheim, who has won five races in a row in women’s Nordic in the RMISA, said her performance in the conference championships has helped soothe some of her nerves ahead of this week’s competition.
“It for sure increased my self-confidence,” Jordheim said. “I feel really strong.”
Regionally, Utah took fourth overall without racing a full team.
“We’ve had some injury and illness on the women’s alpine side,” said Kevin Sweeney, Utah’s director of skiing. “So we were not able to start a full team, so we did have to give up two scoring opportunities there on the women’s side.”
Sweeney hopes the team will reach its full potential in the NCAA Championships.
“Ski racing is a volatile sport, and I think that for us, the way we finished up as a team does not reflect our capabilities or our motivation, I think,” Sweeney said. “In fact, it has motivated us even more.”
Now that the group is healthy and ready to go, Martin Bergström, a previous NCAA champion of classic and freestyle; Hâkon Hjelstuen, going to the championship for his second time; and Bjørn Riksaasen, competing for his first, take on men’s Nordic.
Utah women’s Nordic squad will be represented by Jordheim, the top overall qualifier in the West. Freshman Mariah Bredal and sophomore Leah Lange, an alternate for last year’s NCAA championship, will both be competing as well.
Alpine will be represented with Julie Mohagen, who is competing for her third time and defending her championship title in the women’s slalom; Sabine Krautgasser, who was an alternate last year; and first-timer Ann-Kathrin Breuning.
On the men’s side, Sam Dupratt, who finished second last year in men’s giant slalom, and freshmen Linus Walch and Huston Philip, will represent Utah.
“I’m excited to go with this team,” Mohagen said. “It’s a great group of people, it will be a lot of fun.”
In 2017, the Utes took the win with 541.5 points. Colorado was the runner-up with a close 525. With a collective point system, competitors are pushed by not only their own desires to win, but the hopes to not let their team down.
“As an athlete, obviously I have my competitive instincts,” Mohagen said. “I always want to do well. Especially in college, skiing is a team sport. A big motivation is for sure doing well for your teammates.”
Even with this being Mohagen’s third NCAA Championship, it takes great mental preparation to deal with the most significant competition of the season.
“I always get super nervous,” Mohagen said. “This is by far the most important competition for us during the year, and the nature of it is that it’s the only competition that counts. You only kind of have that one chance to do what you’re supposed to do. It’s for sure nerve-racking, but that’s just what we have to deal with. I think the whole team is prepared to do that.”
Through intense training, video sessions, analysis and mental preparation, the team is gearing up for competition in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, at the Steamboat Springs Resort.
Kicking off Wednesday, March 7, will be the giant slalom. Thursday, March 8, will feature 5/10K classic. Friday, March 9 will be slalom and closing the championship on Saturday, March 10, will be the 15/20K freestyle.