STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — It was a bittersweet day for the University of Colorado ski team.

Though CU named another national champion with junior Mads Stroem's win in the men's 20-kilometer classical cross-country race at Howelsen Hill on Saturday — his second win this week and third career national title — it wasn't enough for the Buffs to defend their 2015 NCAA team title.

The University of Denver won its 23rd team national title, besting CU by 76 points.

CU had to fight this week for its spot on the team podium, making up points after a disappointing first day of championship racing in the giant slalom on Wednesday. The Buffs, aiming for their 21st team NCAA title, were in fifth place as a team following that first day of racing at Steamboat Ski Resort.

Steadily, the Buffs inched their way toward the top of the leaderboard with Stroem's first win of the championship in Thursday's 10K freestyle cross-country race and a second-place finish by sophomore Petra Hyncicova in the women's 5K freestyle race.

CU held its ground in Friday's late-night slalom races, racking up points from senior Henrik Gunnarsson, who missed the top podium spot by two-hundredths of a second, and rookie Nora Christensen's fifth-place finish.

On Saturday, it was Stroem's chance to shine again.

After hanging with the lead pack for the majority of the race, Stroem and DU's Moritz Madlener battled on the last 5K lap until Stroem pulled away, winning by 1.7 seconds.


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As he crossed the finish line, Stroem raised his ski poles into the air, victorious.

"I don't even remember what I was thinking. I was just so happy to win both races, it's crazy," he said.

Stroem became the sixth CU athlete to sweep titles in the NCAA championships, joining a select group of both Alpine and Nordic skiers dating back to 1987. His win marks the 90th individual national title for the CU ski team, the most by any school in NCAA history.

The Colorado ski team celebrates on the podium after finishing second at the NCAA Skiing Championships in Steamboat Springs.
The Colorado ski team celebrates on the podium after finishing second at the NCAA Skiing Championships in Steamboat Springs. (Joel Reichenberger/For the Daily Camera)

Stroem is the eighth CU athlete and sixth CU skier to win three individual NCAA titles.

Stroem's teammate, freshman Petter Reistad, may have helped him to victory by making an unusual gear choice for Saturday's race.

Instead of using classical cross-country skis, which are waxed to provide resistance on uphill stretches, Reistad raced on skate skis, a tactic known as double-poling because Reistad had to rely mostly on his two ski poles to propel himself uphill.

Because of that, Reistad had to push hard in the beginning of the race and found himself out ahead of the lead pack.

While other skiers chased down Reistad, Stroem hung back and saved himself for a surge at the end.

"We knew that he had to push it from the start and gap people up there and just try to stay in front and that was just a perfect strategy for me because then other people had to work to get him back," Stroem said. "I could just slip in behind and ski with these people, save as much energy as possible. That worked out perfect for me."

During the women's mid-morning race, the sun beat down and turned the snow to mush.

The women slogged their way around the course three times in short sleeves before collapsing at the finish line.

DU's Linn Eriksen won that race by nearly 20 seconds. CU sophomore Ane Johnsen finished third and junior Jesse Knori placed fifth, a tie for her career-best finish.

Knori said she dedicated this season to her late father Bob, who died in a horse accident two years ago.

She said the key to her performance was knowing that, though she was tired, the skiers in front of her were just as exhausted and if she dug deep, she could pass them.

"These were tough conditions, so slow, but they're fun, I think, when everyone's going through the same thing," Knori said. "I just kept thinking 'Everyone's tired, everyone's in pain,' and if you just keep thinking that then you kind of get fueled."

Coach Richard Rokos said he was surprised and impressed by Knori's fifth-place finish, though the Nordic squad's performance wasn't enough to make up for the Alpine team's foibles.

In the giant slalom on Wednesday, senior Henrik Gunnarsson did not finish his second run, which meant he didn't earn any points for the Buffs, and freshman Max Luukko had a slow first run.

In Friday's slalom, freshman Ola Johansen straddled a gate and had to hike back up above it to finish the run. Those extra seconds meant he finished near the bottom of the pack.

Before the championship started, senior Jessica Honkonen injured her knee during a training run at Howelsen Hill and had to sit out her fourth championship.

Rokos already has his eyes on next year.

"For the whole duration of the championship, it was kind of a string of unfortunate events for us, but in the end of it, surprise," Rokos said of the team's eventual second-place finish. "Overall, we have lots of new experiences here, some misfortune, but it was a good championship."

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

NCAA Skiing Championships

Team scores

(Final, eight events)

1. Denver .................................567.5

2. Colorado ........................491.5

3. Utah .....................................485

4. Montana State .....................406

5. Dartmouth ...........................335

6. New Mexico .......................317.5

7. Vermont ..............................310

8. Northern Michigan .............217

9. Alaska-Anchorage .............179.5

10. New Hampshire ...............151

11. Middlebury ......................133

12. Colby ...............................107

13. Alaska-Fairbanks............... 97

14. Williams.............................86

15. St. Michael's......................50

16. Plymouth State .................27

17. Michigan Tech .................19

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

19. Bates...................................1

Men's 20K classical

1. Mads Stroem, CU...........................49:41.9

2. Moritz Madlener, DU...............................49:43.6

3. Niklas Persson, Utah............................... 50:00.6

4. Ian Torchia, NMU....................................50:22.1

5. Adam Martin, NM....................................50:39.7

6. Eli Hoenig, Williams............................... 50:43.2

7. Kevin Bolger, Utah...................................50:47.4

8. Jack Hegman, UVM..............................., 50:49.5

9. Petter Reistad, CU........................ 51:17.3

10. Dag Trolleboe, DU.................................51:24.2

Other CU finisher

19. Arnaud DuPasquier................................ 52:46.3

Women's 15K classical

1. Linn Eriksen, DU.........................54:37.6

2. Katie Roivas, UNM..................... 54:57.5

3. Ane Johnsen, CU...................54:58.8

4. Veronica Kayerhofer, Utah.......... 55:06.0

5. Jesse Knorri, CU.................. 55:13.8

6. Aja Starkey, DU.......................... 55:20.5

7. Nicole Bathe, UAF...................... 55:22.1

8. Emilie Cedervaern, UNM........... 55:22.5

9. Olivia Amber, Colby....................55:30.7

10. Eva Severrus, UNM.................. 55:39.8

Other CU finisher

17. Petra Hyncicova....................... 56:24.2