Swirbul accumulates two All-Americans at nationals

To conclude the 2017-18 skiing season, the UAA skiers competed in the NCAA 65th Annual Division I Skiing Championships. Of the 26-member team, 12 skiers became eligible for the national title. They took off to Steamboat Springs, Colorado to compete March 7-10.

Sswirbul : skip hickey.jpg
UAA sophomore Hailey Swirbul places second and third in the 10K freestyle and 5K classic races at the NCAA 65th Annual DI Skiing Championship in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. Photo credit: Skip Hickey

As for the twelve, senior Charley Field; juniors Toomas Kollo, Zackarias Toresson, Anthony Naciuk, Marcus Deuling, Sadie Fox and Alix Wells; sophomores Hailey Swirbul, Natalie Hayes, Dominic Unterberger; and freshmen Georgia Burgess and Erik Cruz competed in the meet.

Despite the small number compared to other competing teams, Head Coach Sparky Anderson was excited to see what would happen.

“We’ve certainly proven to be dangerous throughout the regular season. It’s a tremendous field we’re going up against, [we needed] all 12 to be at their best,” Anderson said, “It [was] a challenge to find the right crew that was going to be fast on each venue but I think we had some good horses and we took our shots.”

The giant slalom took place on the first day of competition, with three male and three female competitors from UAA.

Anderson explained that they actually were able to go down to the venues early and get some practice in on the giant slalom hill, which he believes worked to the advantage of his athletes.

Cruz and Field finished at the top of the UAA competitors, in 24th and 14th place respectively.

- Advertisement -

Cruz finished with a time of 1:52.35, scoring seven points for the Seawolves and finishing just over three seconds slower than the first place finisher.

Field’s two combined runs gave her a finishing time of 1:54.99 to put her just over a second behind first place and helped her accumulate 17 points.

The remainder of UAA competitors in the giant slalom were Naciuk (27th, 1:53.04) and Unterberger (did not finish) on the men’s side and Wells (19th, 1:55.80) and Burgess (did not finish) on the women’s side.

After day one, the Seawolves came in at ninth.

“Our kids skied their hearts out,” Anderson said, “the times were super stacked… We gave our best and just got beat today.”

Following day one, the Nordic team had a chance to compete, with the 5K and 10K classical taking place on March 9. Three of the UAA women and three men competed.

Top scorers were Swirbul with a third place finish (15:38) and Toomas Kollo with a 22nd place finish (29:34).

Swirbul’s finish on Friday was the, at the time, the highest place the a Seawolf managed to accumulate at the meet, a finish that Head Nordic Coach Andrew Kastining was happy with.

“[Swirbul has] had a fantastic season and her hard work and dedication to getting better while being tough as nails has really paid off this year,” Kastining said, “She had her best finish of the season on the stage where it really matters and that speaks a lot to her talents.”

Staggering in after were Hynes (16th, 16:24), Fox (37th, 17:33) on the women’s side and Deuling (30th, 29:59), Toresson (36th, 30:20) on the men’s side.

The Seawolves remained in ninth after day two.

Continuing on, Saturday led the six alpine skiers to their second and final race of the meet, the slalom.

The women’s team finished with an accumulation of 16 points, 14 of those from Burgess (17th place) and two from Field (29th place). Wells did not finish.

The men’s team finished with 16 points. Nacuik’s 19th place finish scored them 12 points, Unterberger finished at 27th to accumulate four points and Cruz at 32nd didn’t score any points.

Still in ninth, the Seawolves had one final day of competition; the Nordic team competed in the 15K and 20K freestyle.

Kastining was optimistic about this event prior to the meet; he said that due to the fact that they had just raced on the course, he had high expectations.

To surpass her previous high finish of the meet, Swirbul came runner-up in the 15K freestyle, with a time of 44-minutes and 0.4-seconds. She finished 38 seconds behind the first place finisher and only eight seconds ahead of third place.

Kastining was happy with the way Swirbul skied, saying it was one of the most exciting races he’s watched and that Swirbul skied very smart.

Her two top-placing finishes, second and third, awarded her two All-American honors.

Despite her success at the meet, Swirbul had some struggles going into the meet.

“I think [traveling up to altitude] is one of the hardest things about being a part of the western circuit and coming from Alaska and trying to adapt to that. It is a different feeling and and experience entirely when you’re racing,” Swirbul said.

Additionally, Hynes (16th, 46:21) and Fox (38th, 50:02) competed as well, helping the women’s team to a sixth place finish in the event.

As for the men, the highest place finish was Kollo, who finished the 20-kilometer race in 56 minutes flat. This was good for 23rd. Following him was Deuling (28th, 57:01) and Toresson (1:01:53).

After the conclusion of the meet, the Seawolves still sat at ninth place overall with 194 points. Denver earned first place with a total of 604 points, Colorado second with 563 points and Dartmouth third with 448.5.