JACKSON, N.H. (ABC4 Sports) - The University of Utah ski team won its 11th NCAA title on Saturday afternoon, its first title since 2003. In addition, Martin Bergström won his second NCAA title of the meet with a win in the men's freestyle race.
The Utes came into the day in second, trailing leader Denver by 34.5 points with Colorado a close third, needing two solid Nordic races to attempt to move into the lead. The Utes had a race-high 84 points in the men’s freestyle race and scored 73 points in the women’s race, which was second among all teams. Utah had 541.5 points, winning over Denver (525) and Colorado (524).
Starting with the men’s race, it was Bergström’s second win of the season and second win of the championships. He also won the 10-km classic on Thursday. Utah had three skiers in the top 10 with Martin Mikkelsen finishing eighth and Kevin Bolger finishing 10th, with all three skiers earning All-America honors (the second of the meet for Bergström and Mikkelsen). Denver had three skiers in the top 11, and the Utes were able to pick up five points in the race.
In the women’s race, Utah was the only team with all three racers in the top 14, as Merete Myrseth finished fifth, Guro Jordheim placed sixth and Natalia Müller finished 14th. Myrseth and Jordheim both earned their second All-America honors of the race. Colorado finished 1-3-28 in the race for 77 points to score just four more than the Utes and Denver only put together 26 points after finishing 11-27-29 on the day, giving the Utes the victory.
“The turning point of today is when Guro broke a pole, and she was back in the 20’s, and she and Natalia were skiing together,” Utah Director of Skiing Kevin Sweeney said. “We told them that they had to go and they busted out and made a big move. The men’s results were tremendous, but whether or not we were going to win was based on those guys making the move. It was exceptional athleticism and gutsy performances.
“I am stunned with the win today. In all my years of coaching, it was one of the most challenging four days of competition,” Sweeney said. “I say that because the weather was incredibly cold and windy, and challenging from both a waxing perspective, as well as visibility and conditions. I know all the teams had to deal with it, but it really beat us up. It took a lot of perseverance and gutsy performances for us to win. We struggled a little bit in the slalom, but they were going for it and came up short. We’ve been crunching numbers and have been able to beat Denver and Colorado by about 30 points on a really good showing during the RMISA season, but didn’t know if we could do it in the championships. Bergström was skiing at a whole new level this week, and Mikkelsen had stepped it up, and I knew Kevin Bolger could get top 10. I was also confident in the women, who have been skiing awesome, so I felt good there. It’s awesome to be able to take this new trophy back to our new ski building.”
The Utes have 11 NCAA titles and 12 championships overall, including an AIAW title in 1978. Utah’s 11 NCAA titles ranks third all-time in skiing.
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