Mateja Robnik, Robert Cone win giant slalom races; Utah in first place

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LAKE PLACID, N.Y. — New Mexico senior Mateja Robnik and Middlebury sophomore Robert Cone each won their first career national championships on Thursday in the giant slalom at the 2015 NCAA Skiing Championships hosted by St. Lawrence University at Whiteface Mountain in Lake Placid, New York.

Robnik, a second team All-American last season in the slalom, continued her impressive campaign by posting the fastest first run time of 1:10.80, .07 seconds ahead of Utah’s Chloe Fausa.

Though Denver’s Monica Heubner came up with a second run time of 1:11.70 to leap into contention, Robnik closed the competition with the second-fastest final run of 1:11.76 to hold on for the victory.
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Heubner and teammate Kristine Haugen were second and third overall for the Pioneers, while Utah’s Kristiina Rove and Fausa rounded out the first team All-Americans. Second team honorees in the top 10 included New Hampshire’s Lisa Wedsjoe, Montana State’s Benedicte Lyche, Dartmouth’s Lizzie Kistler and Colby’s duo of Sierra Leavitt and Mardene Haskell.

“I really like the hill, it has a lot of terrain,” said Robnik following her victory, the seventh alpine individual national champion for Lobos head coach Fredrik Landstedt. “Two years ago I competed in the NCAA’s in Vermont and I love skiing [in these mountains] because it’s similar to Europe where I grew up skiing.”

Meanwhile, the men’s giant slalom followed with plenty of drama as well, as several skiers jockeyed for the top spot in the final runs of the event. Middlebury’s Christopher McKenna had two top-5 runs including a second run of 1:07.40 to jump into first place just before Cone started his second run. McKenna delivered the fastest run of the competition (1:06.58), jumping ahead of his teammate with just three skiers remaining with a total time of 2:16.79.

After dodging finishes by Denver’s Trevor Philp and Vermont’s Dominique Garand, it came down to the final run of first run leader Sebastian Brigovic of Denver. Though Brigovic crossed the line in 1:07.79, he was forced to settle for second place at 2:17.22 as Cone celebrated alongside McKenna, two Middlebury Panthers in the top 3.

“We’ve been excited to see the growth and the power that Middlebury has become from national slalom champions a few years ago and we continue to build a great program,” said Cone, who picked up his fourth individual win of the season. “When I was up there, Chris [McKenna] ran right in front of me and it felt like it was training. It was a great environment and this will certainly help to build confidence.”

Philp and Garand rounded out the first team All-Americans, while second team honors went to Utah’s Endre Bjertness and Andy Trow, Colorado’s Henrik Gunnarsson, Vermont’s William St. Germain and Dartmouth’s Dylan Brooks.

After two days of competition in Lake Placid, Utah holds a narrow four-point lead on Colorado in the team standings at 241.0 to 237.0. Denver is third with 232.0 points, while New Mexico and Vermont round out the top 5.

The races continue Friday in Mt. Van Hoevenberg when the Nordic competitors get underway at 10:00 a.m. in the classical races. The alpine skiers will close out the competition on Saturday in the slalom beginning at 8:30 a.m.

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