STOWE, Vt. — Trailing by 65.5 points going into the final day of the NCAA skiing championships, Colorado knew it had nothing to lose.
Despite their best efforts, the Buffaloes were unable to overcome their deficit and finished third overall.
Utah won its second national title in three years, with 530 points. Vermont (476) finished second, followed by the Buffs (455).
“We were going out as hard as we could,” CU head coach Richard Rokos said. “We needed to save face a little bit. We couldn’t save the championship. Being 40-50 points behind is very difficult; not mathematically impossible, but we need everybody else to do really bad and us to do well. In the end, they didn’t do bad. We didn’t come here for third place, but we had great effort from everybody. We had some misfortune from the guys, especially; we’ll have to think about how we’ve done and how we could be better.”
This is the 14th consecutive year that the Buffs have finished in the top four, but it’s their lowest finish since placing fourth in 2014. CU was runner-up the previous three years and won its most recent title in 2015.
In Saturday’s slalom events, the Buffs were led by freshman Mikaela Tommy, who capped her sensational season with a third-place finish. Tommy, who was fourth in the giant slalom on Thursday, earned two first-team All-American honors this week.
“I was a little disappointed in the GS not to win, but the slalom was really good for me,” Tommy said. “I’m happy to get on the podium, and it was a good team effort. It was fun to race here.
“(Friday) night, we talked about as a team, we just wanted to go for it, no regrets. We only wanted to win as a team, we didn’t want to hold back to just finish second or third. We decided we’d all give it everything we had. That was a good mindset for me. Everybody did that; some of us had mistakes, but in the end, we risked it, I think that’s really cool.”
Another freshman, Stef Fleckenstein, placed eighth in the slalom to earn second-team All-American honors. Senior Nora Christensen placed 18th in her final collegiate competition.
“It’s still sinking in,” Christensen said. “I was crying some tears going into the finish. It’s very emotional to be done with skiing. It’s been such a good ride. I met so many amazing people and had so much fun.”
On the men’s side, the Buffs were led by Joey Young’s 13th-place finish. Filip Forjetek was 25th and Max Luukko 33rd.
“On Max’s side, it was pure bad luck,” Rokos said. “I think he was in a good position to put a good time in and his ski fell off. Filip, in some cases it’s just the lack of understanding of the whole concept. This is just a different scenario; it’s down every mistake counting against you.”
Luukko, a senior, closed his career as a four-time All-American, while Christensen was a three-time All-American. Rokos said they are “dream athletes” to coach.
“I know I gave it all I had, but unfortunately we didn’t get the win today,” Luukko said. “We had opportunities. But I’m proud to be a Buff, I had a lot of laughs and good times. I’m really happy about my four years.”
Although the Buffs didn’t finish as hoped, the future looks bright. Only four of the 12 CU skiers at nationals are seniors, with seven of them being underclassmen.
“It’s always good to get on the podium (with a third-place finish), but like any other year our goal is to win the title,” Christensen said. “It’s a little bit of a bummer. In the end you can’t do anything more than try your best and sometimes that’s not enough. Hopefully they can do it next year. I’ll be cheering them on.”
NCAA Skiing Championships
Final team scores — 1. Utah 530.5; 2. Vermont 476; 3. Colorado 455; 4. Dartmouth 447; 5. Denver 409; 6. New Mexico 330; 7. Northern Michigan 206; 8. Alaska-Anchorage 204; 9. Montana State 184.5; 10. Middlebury 150; 11. New Hampshire 131; 12. Colby 83; 13. St. Michaels 72; 14. Westminster 70; 15. Alaska-Fairbanks 57; 16. Michigan Tech 55; 17. Bowdoin 39; 18. St. Lawrence 33; 19. Williams 20; 20. Bates 11; 21. Plymouth State 10; 22. Harvard 6; 23. St. Scholastica 3; 24. Wisconsin-Green Bay 0.
Slalom results, Saturday
Men’s Slalom — 1. Jeff Seymour, Denver, 1:41.49; 2. Liam Wallace, Alaska-Anchorage, 1:42.16; 3. Vegard Busengdal, New Mexico, 1:42.33; 4. Guilaume Grand, St. Michaels, 1:42.50; 5. Max Roeisland, Vermont, 1:42.66; 6. Aage Solheim, Montana State, 1:42.69; 7. Louis Muhlen-Schulte, Montana State, 1:42.93; 8. Drew Duffy, Dartmouth, 1:42.97; 9. Mark Engel, Utah, 1:43.00; 10. Alex Barounos, New Mexico, 1:43.14. Colorado results: 13. Joey Young, 1:43.79; 25. Filip Forejtek, 1:52.06; 33. Max Luukko, 2:16.72.
Women’s Slalom — 1. Laurence St. Germain, Vermont, 1:47.00; 2. Roni Remme, Utah, 1:49.58; 3. Mikaela Tommy, Colorado, 1:49.81; 4. Amelia Smart, Denver, 1:50.01; 5. Paula Moltzan, Vermont, 1:50.09; 6. Andrea Komsic, Denver, 1:50.17; 7. Jocelyn McCarthy, Montana State, 1:50.51; 8. Stef Fleckenstein, Colorado, 1:51.56; 9. Tuva Norbye, Denver, 1:51.79; 10. Emma Woodhouse, New Hampshire, 1:51.80. Other Colorado results: 18. Nora Christensen, 1:53.76.