NCAA Championship skiing
WHEN/WHERE: Wednesday through Saturday in Stowe, Vt.
SCHEDULE (all times MST): Wednesday — men's 10K Nordic freestyle, 8 a.m.; women's 5K Nordic freestyle, 10 a.m.; Thursday — women's giant slalom, 7 a.m.; men's giant slalom, 8:15 a.m.; Friday — women's 15K Nordic classical, 8 a.m.; men's 20K Nordic classical, 10 a.m.; Saturday — men's slalom, 7 a.m.; women's slalom, 8 a.m.
BROADCAST: Online — www.ncaa.com/liveschedule
CU NORDIC QUALIFIERS — Women: Hedda Baangman, So.; Anne Siri Lervik, Jr.; Christina Rolandsen, Sr.. Men: Alvar Alev, Sr.; Sondre Bollum, So.; Erik Dengerud, Fr.
CU ALPINE QUALIFIERS — Women: Nora Christensen, Sr.; Stef Fleckenstein, Fr.; Mikaela Tommy, Fr. Men: Filip Forejtek, Fr.; Max Luukko, Sr.; Joey Young, So.
NOTABLE: CU is seeking its 21st national championship in skiing and its first since 2015. The Buffs have finished as national runner-up the past three years. ... CU head coach Richard Rokos has led the Buffs to eight national titles and is in his 29th season as the Buffs' head coach. ... Under Rokos, the Buffs have 16 top-two finishes. ... The Buffs qualified a full 12-person team - three men's and three women's skiers in both alpine and Nordic - for the event. There are 24 schools represented, but only six with a full squad. ... Only two teams - CU in 2006 and Denver in 2008 - have won the national title without a full roster. ... This is the 13th time the skiing national championships have been held in Vermont, the seventh time in Stowe. CU won the national title the last time the championships were held in Stowe, in 2011. ... Denver is the defending champion. The Pioneers have the most NCAA skiing titles (24), with CU second, at 19 (the Buffs' other win was a women's AIAW title in 1982, before the sport went coed in 1983).
Coming down the stretch run of her sensational career with the Colorado ski team, senior Nora Christensen admits she's been a bit sentimental.
"I felt a little bit of it in regionals, so I think it's going to be really sad (when it's over)," she said after a recent practice at Eldora Mountain Resort, "but also I'm just trying to enjoy every moment I have left and have fun with my teammates and have fun with other friends on the circuit and enjoy every moment."
Christensen's final moments with the Buffaloes will come this week, when she and her teammates will compete at the NCAA championships in Stowe, Vt., beginning Wednesday.
Christensen, from Blommenholm, Norway, is the leader of the women's alpine group that hopes to help the Buffaloes to their 21st national title in skiing. She comes into her fourth and final national meet as one of the most consistent and decorated skiers the Buffs have had in recent years.
"She was incredible," longtime CU head coach Richard Rokos said of Christensen's career. "After all, her statistics are amazing. Run after run, race after race, if I go back, she was one of the most consistent skiers on the team. For college skiing, that's a key element. She was always a team leader in many ways."
Christensen has finished 49 of her 54 career starts, while earning All-American honors three times and All-RMISA (Rocky Mountain Intercollegiate Ski Association) honors twice. She's had 23 top-10 and 16 top-five finishes.
Her focus, however, is all on this week and trying to put together one more strong performance at nationals.
"I feel pretty good," she said. "I finally managed to figure out my (giant slalom) skiing a little bit, so that's pretty good. I moved up my ranking a little bit in regionals, so that's good to get a little bit better starting position. My slalom has been pretty solid throughout the whole season, so I'm really excited to finish my career over there. Hopefully I'll get in two good races and I can finish on top."
All of Christensen's All-American honors have come in slalom — first team in 2016 and 2017, second team in 2018 — and she'd love to make it four years in a row.
"I don't feel any pressure, but it's definitely a goal to make it one last time," she said.
Christensen is also hoping her experience can help her teammates. CU's other two women's alpine qualifiers — Stef Fleckenstein and Mikaela Tommy — are freshmen making their first appearances at nationals.
"Both Michaela and Stef come from national teams and they're pretty experienced when it comes to racing," Christensen said. "NCAA is quite a different type of race. It's more pressure in a completely different way than you've been used to before. It's going to be a new experience for them, but I have the confidence that they're going to be able to do just fine."
So far this season, the trio has been very good for the Buffs. Tommy is the top giant slalom skier from the west, with three wins. She also has three top-10 slalom finishes. Fleckenstein has seven top-10 finishes this season, while Christensen has nine top-10s.
The men's alpine squad has been shaky of late, but certainly has the potential to perform well this week.
Freshman Filip Forejtek has recovered from a wrist injury and had two top-four finishes (both in giant slalom) last month. Sophomore Joey Young finished all 12 races this year, with eight top-10 finishes.
Senior Max Luukko is making his fourth trip to the NCAA championships. He's a three-time All-American and has finished 53 of 54 career races. Luukko has 35 career top-10 finishes, but only four this year.
Rokos is confident the men will rebound from a tough regional, saying, "We'll get them back on track."
Rokos likes the balance of the Buffs in all four levels of the team — men and women alpine and men and women Nordic — and a solid performance from each area could lead to a great week for CU.
Christensen is certainly hoping to cap her great career with her first team title.
"I'm really excited," she said. "I think it's going to be fun to go out east again. We did that two years ago, so it's exciting to go over to that side again. We usually do really well over there, so I think we have a good chance. We have a really solid team, so I have confidence in us and hopefully we can just hammer out one last time and get that national championship."