STOWE, Vt. — Prior to his first appearance at the NCAA skiing championships, Erik Dengerud felt some nerves.
Those quickly disappeared, however, and the Colorado freshman had a spectacular debut, winning the national title in the men’s 10K freestyle Nordic race on Wednesday at Trapp Family Lodge.
“I was quite nervous, especially (Tuesday) night,” Dengerud said. “When I got there to ski today, I calmed down a bit and then I had a good time during the race and tried to ski as fast as possible and it worked out good.”
Dengerud claimed the 95th individual national title in CU skiing history, finishing the two-lap course in 24 minutes, 25.5 seconds — nearly 20 full seconds ahead of second-place Kornelius Groev of New Mexico.
His victory helped the Buffs to third place after the first day of the four-day championships.
“Once I got the skis on and during the warm-up, you get into the zone and then you can have fun with it,” Dengerud said. “The plan was to use the first lap to focus on the technique and save some energy towards the final lap. Then on the final lap, I had some good splits and knew I was fighting for the win and I had some energy towards the end, so I just pushed hard and it was enough.”
Dengerud had the second-best time at the 3K split, but picked up his pace by the 5K mark. He had the top time the rest of the way.
“I was happy,” he said of the win. “A couple of teammates came up (to celebrate) and it was a good feeling.”
An experienced international competitor, the Oslo, Norway, native relished his first experience at the NCAA championships. In addition to the national championship, Dengerud earned first-team All-American honors.
“I felt really good today,” he said. “This team is kind of special, and all the teammates care a lot. (During the race), I’m also caring about how my teammates did. It was for sure one of my best races, I think.”
As a team, it was a solid first day for the Buffs, who are sitting in third place, with 120 points. Utah (142) is the leader, with host Vermont (141) narrowly in second. The national championships resume Thursday with the alpine skiers competing in giant slalom. The Nordic classical races will be on Friday and the slalom on Saturday.
“I hate to be leading on the first day and then to be chased, to be honest,” CU head coach Richard Rokos said. “I like the scenario where we’re doing the chasing. I think we’re in perfect position right now, in third place and not too far out of the lead. Judging by the way our people practiced today on the alpine hill, they skied fast and we’re confident going into the giant slalom tomorrow, but you still have to go day-by-day.”
CU senior Alvar Alev finished sixth in Wednesday’s men’s 10K and claimed second-team All-American honors. Alev was a first-team All-American in the freestyle race a year ago.
Sophomore Sondre Bollum finished 21st for the Buffs.
In the women’s 5K race, senior Christina Rolandsen placed eighth to earn second-team All-American honors. She finished in 13:51.4, 23.1 seconds behind the champion, Julia Richter of Utah.
Rolandsen is now a four-time All-American. She was first-team in the freestyle and classical races in 2017 and second-team in the freestyle in 2018. She has finished top 10 in 10 of 11 races this season.
During its remarkable history in skiing, CU has had 499 All-American honors and has had at least one first-team All-American every year since 1968.
Also for the women, Hedda Baangman placed 14th and Anne Siri Lervik 28th for the Buffs.
Boulder High School graduate Lauren Jortberg, a junior at Dartmouth, finished 12th.
NCAA Skiing Championships
Team scores (Through two events) — 1. Utah 142; 2. Vermont 141; 3. Colorado 120; 4. Northern Michigan 117; 5. Denver 92; 6. Dartmouth 91; 7. New Mexico 74; 8. Alaska-Anchorage 60; 9. Montana State 37; 10. Middlebury 35.
Nordic freestyle results
Men — 1. Erik Dengerud, Colorado, 24:25.5; 2. Kornelius Groev, New Mexico, 24.45.1; 3. Ian Torchia, Northern Michigan, 24:45.4; 4. Ricardo Izquierdo-Bernier, New Mexico, 24:49.3; 5. Bill Harmeyer, Vermont, 25:06.2. Other Colorado results: 6. Alvar Alev, 25:07.3; 21. Sondre Bollum, 25:24.6.
Women — 1. Julia Richter, Utah, 13:28.3; 2. Jasmi Joensuu, Denver, 13:29.3; 3. Evelina Sutro, Vermont, 13:29.4; 4. Katharine Ogden, Dartmouth, 13:34.5; 5. Guro Jordheim, Utah, 13:37.6. Colorado results: 8. Christina Rolandsen, 13:51.4; 14. Hedda Baangman, 14:07.0; 28. Anne Siri Lervik, 14:37.6.