Printed March 22, 2004
UNM’s ski team has gone down in history as the first Lobo team to win an NCAA title in the school’s history.
Solid performances from the Alpine and the Nordic teams helped secure the title for UNM at the 2004 NCAA Skiing Championships held in Truckee, Calif. on March 10-13. Head coach George Brooks said it was a strong team effort that was the key to success.
“The reason we won is because everyone contributed,” he said. “We had the right group of coaches and athletes. It was a special group and we didn’t need to win the championship to know that. This was a complete team effort.”
The momentum started with captain Jennifer Delich’s gold-medal performance in the women’s giant slalom on the first day of racing, playing UNM in third. The Lobos moved up to second after the Nordic events on day two.
“The first day we got started right, and we became more positive each day coming down to the end,” Delich said.
Freshman Lars Loeseth followed up Delich’s terrific performance with a third-place finish in the men’s slalom on day three, putting the Lobos in the lead for good.
On the final day of competition, the Lobos were poised for their first title. The Nordic team secured gold by taking bronze in two events. Sophomores Geir-Endre Rogn and Trine Lundamo finished third in the men’s 20K and women’s 15K.
“We felt a lot of pressure on the last day to win,” Nordic coach Fredrik Landstedt said. “We knew it would be hard, but we came into the competition expecting to win.”
UNM won with 623 points – 42 ahead of last year’s national champions, the Utah Utes.
Delich, a senior who was an All-American in 2002, was the only UNM skier to capture an event. This was the first time in her career she won the giant slalom.
“I was confident I could do well but wasn’t expecting to win,” Delich said. “The feeling was awesome.”
Ski Racing magazine released a preseason coaches’ poll in January ranking the top schools in NCAA Division I Alpine and Nordic skiing. UNM was selected to finish fifth overall, but the Lobos had aspirations for an NCAA title since the beginning of the season. Assistant Alpine coach Brandon Dyksterhouse created signs that read “UNM Ski Team – 2004 NCAA Champions. Think about it” and posted them in the coach’s office and on hotel doors wherever they raced.
“Our guys have put in the effort from the beginning, and we felt we were the team to beat coming into NCAAs,” Dyksterhouse said. “I wanted to instill a championship attitude in our team early.”
Bringing the crown to UNM puts the exclamation point on an impressive tenure for Brooks. Brooks skied for UNM from 1967-70 and took over as head coach in 1970. Brooks came closest to winning a title in 1992 with a second-place finish.
“I couldn’t have written a better script,” Brooks said. “I looked at a map three years ago of the states with national championships, and New Mexico was devoid of one. I am a native of New Mexico and happy to bring back the state’s first national championship.”
UNM finished the season with 10 All-Americans and 11 academic All-Americans.