Colorado’s Mads Stroem raises his arms in celebration after winning the Nordic 10K freestyle race Thursday at Steamboat Springs.
Colorado's Mads Stroem raises his arms in celebration after winning the Nordic 10K freestyle race Thursday at Steamboat Springs. (Joel Reichenberger / For the Daily Camera)

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS -— Mads Stroem spent the last year dreaming of this day.

After being crowned with a cowboy hat, the University of Colorado junior stood atop the podium on Thursday for the men's 10-kilometer freestyle cross-country race — his second national championship title in three years.

"It feels amazing," he said. "For 10 months this has been my goal — for 10 months. Since May 1 of last year, this has been my goal and to accomplish a goal is amazing. (It's the) greatest feeling."

Stroem's dominating performance — he finished more than 10 seconds ahead of the next best skier — and a second-place finish by sophomore Petra Hyncicova in the women's 5K freestyle race helped propel the Buffs forward in the team standings to fourth place, up one spot from Wednesday.

With 214.5 points, defending national champion CU still trails the NCAA championship leader Montana State University, which finished the first two days of competition with 282 team points. The University of Utah is second in the team standings with 264 points, followed by the University of Denver with 263 points.

After winning the men's freestyle national title as a freshman in 2014, Stroem barely missed the No. 1 spot in the 20K classical race in 2015.

Prior to this year's championships, Stroem won six races, including the last four in a row.

His philosophy this season has been to push himself to the point of near collapse, which he did a few seconds after crossing the finish line on Thursday.


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He pushed so hard he got sick after the race, which, in Stroem's book, is a good thing.

"Always dig as far down into the basement, always go into completely black in your eyes and you can't even see anymore," he said. "For me it doesn't matter anymore if I win and I haven't really pushed myself all the way. I always want to push myself until my balance is not there anymore and I can almost see black, that's what I think is the most important to me, always pushing myself to the limit. The feeling you have after is something special to me."

With his second freestyle national title, Stroem became the 17th CU athlete to win two NCAA titles in the same event. He also won CU's 89th individual national title for skiing.

It wasn't immediately clear that Stroem had won because of the race's staggered start, which put 30 seconds between each skier. But his time of 22 minutes, 6.8 seconds stood as the winner out of 40 total finishes.

"In a way it's kind of a fun race because it's just you against the elements and you can't pace off of somebody else," said CU Nordic head coach Bruce Cranmer.

Cranmer said Thursday's cloudless skies and warm temperatures made for good cross-country skiing conditions in both the men's and women's races.

Colorado’s Petra Hyncicova smiles from the podium after finishing second Thursday in the Nordic 5K freestyle race in the NCAA championships at
Colorado's Petra Hyncicova smiles from the podium after finishing second Thursday in the Nordic 5K freestyle race in the NCAA championships at Steamboat Springs. (Joel Reichenberger / For the Daily Camera)

"The best people probably came out on top today," he said. "I don't think it turned into a big wax race or where you can have people having bad skis or good skis. Certainly there's probably micro differences, but in general, I think it was a really fair race."

Stroem's teammate freshman Petter Reistad also scored points for the Buffs finishing No. 6, with senior Arnaud Du Pasquier coming in at No. 33.

In the women's 5K race earlier in the day, Hyncicova finished second with a time of 13:14 followed by sophomore Ane Johnsen at No. 9 and junior Jesse Knori at No. 32. Montana State's Anika Miller won in 13:06.1.

Hyncicova said she felt some pressure to do well because of the Alpine team's disappointing finish on Wednesday, but in the end, she even surprised herself with her second-place finish.

"I was really nervous before the start but when I saw everyone here — the Alpiners and everyone here to cheer for us, it was like 'Yes, I have to do it for the team,' " she said.

Coach Richard Rokos said the day of Nordic events was "like a holiday" compared to the Buffs' giant slalom performance earlier in the week, though Stroem's victory and CU's other top performances weren't nearly enough to close the points gap with Montana State, Utah or Denver.

The Buffs are aiming for their 21st national team title this week.

"We are still far behind and we need to get very good points," he said.

Sarah Kuta: 303-473-1106, kutas@dailycamera.com or twitter.com/sarahkuta

NCAA Skiing Championships

Team scoring

At Steamboat Springs

(Through four of eight events)

1. Montana State ..........................282

2. Utah ...........................................264

3. Denver ......................................263

4. Colorado ............................214.5

5. Vermont ....................................154

6. New Mexico .............................139.5

7. Dartmouth ................................126

8. Alaska-Anchorage ....................124

9. Northern Michigan .................122

10. Middlebury ...............................81

11. New Hampshire .......................75

12. Alaska-Fairbanks .....................38

13. Colby .........................................30

14. St. Michael's .............................23

15. Williams ....................................21

16. Michigan Tech ........................19

17. Plymouth State ..........................8

18. St. Scholastica ...........................6.

Women's 5K freestyle

1. Anika Miller, MSU................................ 13:06.1

2. Petra Hyncicova, CU........................13:14.0

3. Sloan Storey, Utah ................................ 13:14.1

4. Cambria McDermott, MSU.................. 13:15.5

5. Emilie Cedervaern, UNM..................... 13:18.9

6. Natalia Mueller, Utah..............................13:19.2

7. Taeler McCrerey, DU..............................13:19.5

8. Linn Eriksen, DU..................................... 13:19.7

9. Ane Johnsen, CU............................. 13:20.8

10. Mary Kate Cirelli, UVM........................ 13:23.6

Other CU finisher

32. Jesse Knori.............................................. 14:10.0.

Men's 10K freestyle

1. Mads Stroem, CU........................ 22:06.8

2. Ian Torchia, NMU................................ 22:17.4

3. Moritz Madlener, DU........................... 22:26.6

4. Adam Martin, NMU.............................. 22:35.2

5. Saywer Kesselheim, MSU.................... 22:35.4

6. Petter Reistad, CU......................... 22:41.9

7. Nick Hendrickso, Utah...........................22:47.4

8. Lars Hannah, DU................................ .... 22:56.9

9. Jake Brown, NMU................................... 23:02.9

10. Jack Hegman, UVM............................... 23:03.7

Other CU finisher

33. Arnaud DuPasquier.................................. 24:25.3