STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Call this year's NCAA Skiing Championships a learning experience.
The University of Colorado ski team didn't win its 21st team title in Steamboat Springs, but that doesn't mean the four days of Alpine and Nordic racing were a total waste.
CU's newest skiers gained valuable experience this week at Howelsen Hill and Steamboat Ski Resort, knowledge coach Richard Rokos said he hopes will reap benefits for the Buffs next season.
Rokos said it can take a while for freshmen to adjust to collegiate skiing, in which every run counts toward the team's performance.
"There is so much pressure on the individual to perform," he said. "In World Cup skiing, you make the race, you don't make the race, it's not big deal. There is always another race. There is no other race for this one. One and only and no forgiveness. You have to finish all rounds and do well."
The championships gave some CU skiers a chance to rise to the occasion, including freshman Nora Christensen, an Alpine skier who learned a week ago that she'd be competing in her first national championships.
Christensen got the call last weekend from Rokos after senior Jessica Honkonen injured her knee during a training accident on Howelsen Hill. Christensen jumped in the car and worked quickly to get into championship mindset.
She finished 21st in Wednesday's giant slalom, but quickly redeemed herself by finishing fifth in Friday's slalom races.
Tonje Trulsrud, also a freshman, was CU's top skier on Wednesday with a third-place giant slalom finish.
Another rookie Petter Reistad proved that he's willing to take risks for potentially big rewards. He used skate skis in Saturday's 20-kilometer men's classical cross-country race to see if he could earn the Buffs more points toward the team total.
Wearing skate skis in Saturday's 20-kilometer men's classical cross-country race, Reistad stormed ahead of the lead pack and helped his teammate Mads Stroem win his third career national title.
"I want podiums and especially victories for years to come and I think that should be possible," Reistad said. "I know where the guys are. I know what level I need to be on and I know that I can be up there for sure."
Freshman Max Luukko rebounded from a disappointing giant slalom finish to place fifth in Friday's slalom event.
All that bodes well for the Buffs next season, who also will return Stroem and the entire women's Nordic team, plus Alpiner Ola Johansen, who competed this week in his first national championships.
The Buffs will do some recruiting for the men's and women's Alpine teams and the men's Nordic team.