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UAA skiers ninth at championships

The UAA ski team entered the 2016 NCAA Skiing championships March 9 anxious to improve on a ninth place showing last year at the same event.

Eight races and several missed opportunities later, the Seawolves will have the same challenge for next season, finishing ninth for the second consecutive year at this year’s venue of Steamboat Springs, Colorado.

The University of Denver returned to college skiing glory after a one year hiatus — having won the national championship in 2014. The Pioneers beat out rivals Colorado and Utah by over 80 points, finishing the meet with a cumulative score of 567.5 points.

The Seawolves 179.5 total points was well below what a top-five finish required.

Mackenzie Kanady was 32nd in the women’s 15-kilometer classic race in the final day of the four-day meet. Fellow Seawolves Casey Wright and Patricia Sprecher finished 35th and 39th respectively. Kanady hoped for a much higher showing in her race.

“Sometimes you can try everything and do everything you can to perform well and some days the cards just aren’t in your favor,” Kanady said.

The men’s 20 kilometer classic race did not go much better for UAA. Luca Winkler finished 26th, Etienne Richard 36th, and Toomas Kollo 38th.

The Seawolves had a promising first half of the meet Wednesday, March 10 and Thursday, March 11 – punctuated by senior Sean Alexander’s sixth place finish in the grand slalom.

“It’s his best ever [grand slalom] finish in a [NCAA] championship so it’s nothing to sneeze at and it was a great finish for him,” coach Sparky Anderson said. “I know he wanted to be on that podium but we’ll take an All-American.”

The UAA women’s alpine team also fared well in the grand slalom. Maria Gudmundsdottir had a two-run time of 2:02.06, good for 12th. Sophomore Charley Field and senior Isabella Andreini finished 17th and 29th respectively.

“To be in the top-15 in this field is pretty exceptional, especially as a freshman,” Anderson said of Gudmundsdottir.

The second day of the championships featured the Nordic freestyle races.

Kanady was UAA’s top finisher in the women’s 5 kilometer freestyle race at 15th — less than 30 seconds off the winning time.

“It wasn’t quite the result we thought she was capable of but as far as time off of the leader, she had a great race,” UAA Nordic coach Andrew Kastning said. “The race was the closest packed race I’ve ever seen for a [5-kilometer freestyle], if you wanted to be top-30, you needed to be within one minute of the leader – so seconds counted.”

The third day of the meet featured the slalom races on Howelsen Hill. Hughston Norton finished 15th in the men’s slalom with a time of 1:26.31 and Gudnundsdottir 18th.

NCAA Skiing Championship Team Scores (Final, 8 events)— 1. Denver 567½; 2. Colorado 491½; 3. Utah 485; 4. Montana State 406; 5. Dartmouth 335; 6. New Mexico 317½; 7. Vermont 310; 8. Northern Michigan 217; 9. Alaska Anchorage 179½; 10. New Hampshire 151; 11. Middlebury 133; 12. Colby 107; 13. Alaska-Fairbanks 97; 14. Williams 86; 15. St. Michael’s 50; 16. Plymouth State 27; 17. Michigan Tech 19; 18. St. Scholastica 6; 19. Bates 1; 20. Harvard and Wisconsin-Green Bay 0.

Written by Nolin Ainsworth