UAA skiers set for national stage

A pair of seniors with podium aspirations and jump-start freshmen highlight this weekend’s National Collegiate men’s and women’s skiing championships in Steamboat Springs, Colorado.

The championships kick off Thursday, March 10 with the running of the men’s and women’s giant slalom at Mr. Werner. The women’s 5 kilometer and men’s 10 kilometer freestyle races blaze the trails Friday, March 11, on nearby Howelsen Hill. The second half of the championships follow the same pattern. On the night of Saturday, March 12, the men’s and women’s slalom events take center stage under the lights. The final day of competition features the long distance Nordic races including a women’s 15-kilometer classic race and men’s 20 kilometer classic race.

The Seawolves are one of eight teams that qualified the maximum 12 student-athletes. The Rocky Mountain Intercollegiate Ski Association, to which UAA belongs, has the largest share of participants of any one conference in the championships with 84. In total, 144 skiers representing 21 different institutions will be competing in the four-day event.

Sean Alexander, Hughston Norton, Curtis McKillop, Isabella Andreini, Charley Field and Maria Gudmundsdottir are the alpine skiers competing from UAA.

“I think we’ve done a good job of preparing our team for a championship event,” head coach Sparky Anderson said. “Looking back on this season the kids are all improving constantly at a good pace, and to me, that’s a sign of a successful program… It’s taken us a while to get to this part of the season where they are peaking. We haven’t had great opportunities to train at home because of the warm winter.”

The alpine team is led by senior Sean Alexander, who is fresh off a first-place finish in the grand slalom event at the RMISA/NCAA West region championships. Alexander had a two-time score of 2:19.30, beating out Colorado University’s Henrik Gunnarsson and Max Luukko by less than 0.4 seconds.

“That experience was one-of-a-kind for me,” Alexander said. “Through my college career I’ve had a lot of battles with injuries and so it’s always been a battle to get to a place … I was skiing to a level that I knew I could.”

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Gudmundsdottir and Field will also be contenders for a podium spot in their races. The two are consistent top-10 finishers in the slalom and giant slalom events.

Toomas Kollo, Etienne Richard, Luca Winkler, Mackenzie Kanady, Patricia Sprecher and Casey Wright will be representing UAA on the Nordic side.

Head Nordic ski coach Andrew Kastning dealt with unexpected turnover in his team this season. Incoming sophomores Marion Hundry and Kathrin Schratt left the program to pursue career opportunities in their fields in Europe.

“When you lose skiers like that in our region it’s tough to have a strong team score through the regular season,” Kastning said. “I think the mood is good on the team and were not going in there expecting to be middle to the back-of-the-pack. We’re going in there with expectations to get some All-Americans and be a top-7 school.”

Kastning is proud of how the team has come together under adversity.

Senior Mackenzie Kanady continues to improve on her second team all-RMISA status from last season. Kanady finished 25th and 14th in the 15-kilometers classic race and 5-kilometer freestyle race at the NCAA championships last season.

The races can be streamed live through starting on Wednesday, March 9.