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Ski team places third at NCAA West Regionals

The UNM ski team finished third overall at the NCAA West Regional Championships in Breckenridge, Colo., last weekend and will take 10 skiers to compete in the NCAA Championships next week in Middlebury, Vt.

“We should have a pretty strong group going to the NCAAs,” UNM head coach George Brooks said.

The University of Denver won the regional with 510 points, followed by the University of Colorado with 471.5 points. UNM’s 435 points rounded out the top three and put the team ahead of the University of Utah, which had 431 points.

Freshman alpine skier Marte Dolva set a new NCAA record by becoming the first skier to win both the slalom and the giant slalom at the regional championships. Only tenths of a second separated Dolva from her opponents.

She finished the slalom with a time of 1:28.66, followed by Denver’s Cecilie Hagen Larsen’s time of 1:29.60. Dolva’s 2:02.49 giant slalom time bettered Larsen’s mark of 2:02.58.

“I was surprised I won the giant slalom,” Dolva said. “That was cool.”

Dolva will be seeded first in the slalom and fourth in the giant slalom for the NCAA Championships.

Freshman Jennifer Delich also qualified for the championships, garnering the 11th seed in the slalom and the 16th seed in the giant slalom. She did not finish either race last weekend.

Junior Fredrik Steen, sophomore Stian Eriksen and sophomore Johan Sauer of the men’s alpine team all earned berths in the NCAA Championships.

Utah’s Scott Woodland won the men’s slalom over the weekend with a time of 1:25.99. UNM’s top finisher, sophomore Henrik Motys, finished in eighth place. Eriksen was 10th and Sauer Placed 11th.

The men fared better in the giant slalom, where Eriksen finished third (1:59.30), while Western State College’s Joe Downing took first place with a time of 1:58.87. Steen placed ninth in the race and Sauer was 10th for the Lobos.

The UNM nordic team proved strong once again, contributing several top-10 finishes at Breckenridge and qualifying five skiers, as the women’s team skied well enough to qualify three skiers.

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Senior Kristina Strandberg, last year’s NCAA champion in the 15-kilometer classical race, is seeded second for the 5-km classical race and third for the 15-km skate.

Senior Anne Heggelund is seeded fourth in the skate and 12th in the 5-km classical, and freshman Pirkko Pulkkanen is seeded ninth in the 15-km classical and 21st in the 5-km classical.

Strandberg finished second in the 5-km and 15-km races over the weekend.

The University of Montana’s Marianne Magnus won the classical with a time of 17:16.1, followed by Strandberg’s 17:16.2.

Colorado’s Abby McAllister won the 15-km skate with a time of 41:09.2, with Strandberg finishing just behind her at 41:58.5, followed by Heggelund. The third-place finish was Heggelund’s highest in her college career.

Pulkkanen finished 14th in the 5-km classical and did not race in the 15-km skate.

The men’s nordic team qualified two members for the championships, including senior Tomas Dohnal and freshman Vesa Tiihonen.

“Tomas is one of the favorites,” UNM head nordic coach Fredrik Landstedt said.

Denver’s Pietro Broggini is the top-seeded cross-country skier to come from the West, while Dohnal is seeded second in both the 10-km classical race and the 20-km skate.

Over the weekend, Dohnal placed third (47:37.40) in the 20-km and fourth in the 10-km classical with a time of 26:58.20.

Tiihonen earned the eighth seed in the 20-km and the 26th seed in the 10-km.

Tiihonen finished eighth at the regionals in the 20-km and 21st in the 10-km.

Landstedt said that the team looks to do well at the championships, and feels that all his skiers have a chance to be All-Americans.

The NCAA Championships run from March 2-11 at the Middleburg Snow Bowl in Middleberry, where schools from all over the country will compete for the championship titles.

The UNM ski team started the year slow but has steadily improved, and Brooks said he hopes they will finish in the top eight out of about 20 colleges represented at the national championships.

“In ski racing, anything can happen,” Brooks said.

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