LAKE PLACID, N.Y. — It hardly was an easy season for the Colorado ski program.
Yet that didn’t stop the Buffaloes from reaching their usual heights on the national stage.
The Buffs completed a trying season on Saturday by finishing second at the NCAA championships. After leading the four-day competition through the first two days, CU ultimately finished just 34.5 points behind Utah, which won its fourth consecutive national championship and its 16th overall.
The Buffs outpaced state rival Denver, which finished third, by 75 points.
The season began with the abrupt firing of former coach Andy LeRoy after just one season on the job in place of Colorado legend Richard Rokos. It ended with four top-10 finishes in the final event on Saturday, the Nordic 20K classic.
“It was the closest that we ever been in past couple of years to Utah,” interim head coach/Nordic coach Jana Weinberger said. “We needed something very special to win, that did not happen, but for this team to get second place, that’s nothing to be ashamed of or hang our heads about. We always want to win, that’s our goal, and if a couple of different things would have happened, we could have won. Yesterday, slalom, anything can happen. There was some unfortunate things that happened, but they also happened to Utah. You can’t say could have, would have, but I’m happy with this team’s performance this week.”
Hanna Abrahamsson led the way for the Buffs on Saturday, finishing second in the women’s 20K classic with a time of 1 hour, 23.9 seconds, crossing the line 19.6 seconds behind Utah’s Novie McCabe. CU’s Weronika Kaleta placed ninth (1:03:05.4), while Anna-Marie Dietze finished 11th, missing the top 10 by just two-tenths of a second.
Dietze finished third, Abrahamsson fifth and Kaleta ninth in the Nordic 5K freestyle on Thursday.
“I’m actually really happy with the results and I felt really good during the race as well,” Abrahamsson said. “I’ve never felt that I’ve had such support throughout the course, because everybody that was not a Utah fan was cheering for me because I was in there with three Utes. The race was a little stressful to be honest, because we were skiing really slow. It was very controlled until the last lap, but I tried to trust the process and I figured some people would drop off, and if nobody would’ve done anything the last, lap, I was going to.”
In the men’s 20K classic, CU’s Magnus Boee backed up his 10th-place finish in the 5K freestyle by placing fifth in 55:46.1. Teammate Will Koch placed 10th in 56:34.0.
“I’m proud of this team throughout this entire championship. I think everyone did their very best and we all tried our best today,” Boee said. “It was a tricky day in terms of temperature and conditions for waxing, and that happens. But overall, I think everyone tried their best and we just came up short. It just how it is but there’s nothing we have to be ashamed or embarrassed about. I’m proud of what we’ve done.”
Final team standings: Utah 526.0, Colorado 491.5, Denver 416.5, Vermont 343.0, Dartmouth 335.5, Montana State 280.0, Alaska Fairbanks 268.0, New Hampshire 234.0 points, Westminster 225.0, Middlebury 215.0, St. Michael’s 145, Alaska Anchorage 130, Plymouth State 104, Harvard 67, Michigan Tech 67, Colby 58, St. Lawrence 43, Nevada 21, Northern Michigan 20.5.