It’s not very noticeable, but there’s a small “21” emblem on the Denver alpine uniforms, signifying the 21 NCAA skiing championships Denver had won prior to 2014.
However, it’s been a few years since the Pioneers have found themselves at the top of the team standings – their last title came in 2010, the third title in a DU three-peat.
After scoring 556 points to win the 2014 NCAA Skiing Championships, the Pioneers will need some new uniforms next year.
“These were new uniforms this year,” Denver Nordic head coach Dave Steward laughed. “I guess they’ll be short-lived.”
Though he’s a part of a program with a rich skiing tradition, Stewart said winning national championships never gets old.
“We kind of got used to winning – 2008, 2009, 2010,” Stewart said. “It was the goal of our program to win this championship and bring it home to our university. To get back on [the top of the podium] again is just so special for us. It has been three years of hard work by our athletes and our recruiting to get back here.”
It was a convincing win for the Pioneers, who bested second-place Vermont (487.5) and third-place New Mexico (458.5) by a wide margin. Last year’s champions, Colorado, finished fourth with 402.5 points and host Utah placed fifth, scoring 392 points.
Stewart said the road to Denver’s championship was paved in the fall, when the team first started training.
“The goal of our athletes since we came together in the fall – we do a team bonding camping trip – was ’22,’” he said. “That was our motto all year. Every time we went out training on a tough day or it was raining or it was a hard interval training day – it was ’22.’ We were all about taking home this trophy.”
Denver junior Espen Lysdahl survived a tough course to win the men’s slalom race, crossing the finish line with a combined two-run time of 1 minute, 53.34 seconds.
“It’s been a dream to redo what I did my freshman year,” he said. “It was kind of a disappointment last year, with all of us pretty much messing up the slalom in Middlebury. We wanted some redemption, and we got it.”
Indeed the Pioneers did – in addition to Lysdahl taking the top spot, fellow Pioneer and 2014 Olympian Trevor Philp finished in second place with a time of 1:54.11.
Lysdahl said he’s improved so much this year by working with Philp.
“It’s great,” he said. “Me and Trevor have ben pushing each other since our freshman year and have taken some pretty big steps. It’s really great to have such a high-level athlete on your team so you can push each other.”
For Philp, who represented Canada in Sochi, being a part of a team championship is something he’ll never forget.
“It’s a different atmosphere, for sure,” he said. “But the team aspect is so incredible – there’s such a camaraderie that’s been built. Having everyone cheering for each other – it’s an incredible atmosphere.”
Jonathon Nordbotten of Vermont (1:54.89) finished third to round out the podium.
In the women’s slalom race, it was all about the Catamounts. Vermont swept the podium, with Kristina Riis-Johannessen picking up the victory. She finished with a total time of 1:37.89.
Kate Ryley (1:38.24) finished second and Elise-Woien Tefre (1:39.93) landed in the third spot.
Over at Soldier Hollow, the Colorado men’s Nordic team continued its strong championship performance, with Mads Ek Stroem winning the 20-kilometer freestyle race, crossing the line in 43 minutes, 49.0 seconds.
Max Olex of Alaska Fairbanks (43:56.3) finished second and Mats Rudin Resaland (44:00.3) of New Mexico rounded out the podium.
In the women’s 15K freestyle event, New Mexico’s Eva Severrus picked up the victory with a time of 40:15.1. Rosie Frankowski of Northern Michigan finished second, crossing the line in 40:16.9. Denver’s Sylvia Thorson Nordskar (40:32.9) placed third.