After approximately six meets for the majority of the team, the UAA ski team headed into what could be the end of the season for many by competing in the combined Rocky Mountain Intercollegiate Ski Association and NCAA West Regional Championships.
The events took place in Steamboat Springs, Colorado at two different locations. The majority of the races were at Howelsen Hill Ski Area and the other at Steamboat Ski Resort.
The team collectively competed in eight different events over the course of three days. Feb. 23 was the men’s and women’s slalom, Feb. 24 was the women’s 5K classic and men’s 10K classic and on Feb. 25 was the men’s and women’s giant slalom, the women’s 15K freestyle and the men’s 20K freestyle.
Going into the meet, head coach Sparky Anderson was happy with where they were at, but still wanted some changes.
“Right now, I think that we have things firing on most cylinders but we haven’t really been able to put it all together yet,” Anderson said.
The first day ended up being mediocre for both teams. With only seven total competitors in the slalom from UAA, there was only one top-20 finish, and three top-25 finishes, all on the women’s team.
At the front of the pack for the women’s slalom was Alix Wells (14th, 1:23.85), who helped lead the UAA alpine team to a fifth overall out nine teams. Trailing behind her by only a second was Georgia Burgess (20th, 1:24.82) with Li Djurestaal (22th, 1:25.23), Charley Field (36th, 1:30.76).
The women’s slalom finishers contributed 56.5 points to the team total.
The men’s slalom competed on Friday, but with a seventh place overall finish out of the nine teams. Leading the Seawolves at 28th was freshman Mike Soetaert (1:32.35), nine spots behind at 37th was senior Connor McDonald (1:33.76) and finishing in 41st was freshman Erik Cruz (1:36.60).
Their seventh place finish contributed 31 points to the team, far behind the No. 1 place of Colorado who accumulated 88 points.
After day one, the Seawolves maintained an overall sixth place position.
On Feb. 24, the women managed to get an overall fourth place finish.
UAA accumulated 60 points during the event, trailing No. 1 Utah by 42 points, No. 2 Colorado by 23 points and No. 3 Denver by only eight points.
The Seawolves had two top-20 finishes, one being Hailey Swirbul who came in fifth with a time of 18 minutes and 27 seconds. She only trailed the first-place finisher by 41 seconds.
Sophomore Natalie Hynes managed to make the second highest finish of the meet for the Seawolves, placing 11th with a time of 19 minutes and 2 seconds.
“It’s awesome to have our World Junior Championship women back and good to see Hailey and Natalie in the mix after their trip to Europe,” Nordic head Coach Andrew Kastning said.
The UAA men’s 10K classic team didn’t see as much success on Feb. 24, finishing in seventh out of nine teams with no top-20 finishes. Junior Marcus Deuling scored the highest, coming close to a top-20 but missing it by two slots (22nd, 34:53). Following him was sophomore Zackarais Torresson (28th, 35:50), and junior Toomas Kollo (30th, 36:13).
The Seawolves were far from done. Feb. 25 brought the team four additional races that determined their final placing and NCAA Championship qualifications.
The day started off with the men’s and women’s giant slalom.
The three women’s competitors finished the event one after another. Field finished first out of the three with a time of 2 minutes and 3.29 seconds, Burgess was 0.17 seconds behind her, and Wells 0.02 seconds behind Burgess. The trio got fifth for the event with 48 points.
In contrast, the men finish much farther apart. Tony Naciuk came in at 24th (1:58.87) followed by Cruz (40th), Soetaert (51st), and McDonald (58th). With only 32 points, they took seventh overall for the event.
The Seawolves finished off with the final Nordic races. In the women’s 15K, Swirbul was out to impress again with a fourth place finish, a time of 49 minutes and 43 seconds. In addition, Hynes (19th), Jenna DiFolco (21st), Sadie Fox (24th), and Hannah Rudd (26th) trailed in after.
The women managed a fifth place finish in the event, accumulating 58 points.
The men’s 20K finished off at seventh place by accumulating 37 points for the team. Top finishers were Kollo at 20th and Deuling and Torresson back-to-back at 30th and 31st.
Overall, the Seawolves finished off the meet at sixth place with a total of 357 points, 222.5 from the women’s side and 134.5 from the men’s side. This put the Seawolves 353 points behind the No. 1 finisher of Denver, 260.5 points behind the No. 2 finisher of Colorado, and 200.5 points behind the No. 3 finisher of Montana State.
With a significant portion of the points from the women’s side, Anderson said he was grateful for the hard work they put in and glad they continue to pull their weight on the team.
The men’s side of the team weren’t as fortunate. Anderson explained that, as of recently, most of the men’s team is pretty beat up and needs rest. Cruz came down with a stomach bug over the trip.
Qualifiers for NCAA Championships will have the opportunity to compete once more this season for the national title.
The Seawolves have six high-ranking athletes in NCAA qualifications, including: Dominic Unterberger (men’s slalom, 17th and giant slalom, 18th), Burgess (women’s slalom, 12th), Charley Field (women’s giant slalom, sixth), Kollo (men’s Nordic, 18th, classical, 19th and freestyle, 17th), Swirbul (women’s Nordic, 11th and freestyle, sixth) and DiFolco (women’s classic, 24th).
The national championships will take place on March 7-10 in Steamboat Springs, Colorado.