Panther Skiers Combine for Eleventh Place at NCAA Race
March 16, 2016
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The Alpine and Nordic ski teams combined for an 11th place finish at the NCAA Championships this past weekend. The Colorado Buffaloes hosted the Championship in Steamboat Springs, Colo. on March 9-12. The Panthers finished in 11th out of the 21 teams total, with 133 points. Meanwhile, Denver’s 567 points blew away the field on its way to the school’s 23rd national title. Colorado (491) and Utah (485) joined Denver on the podium, while Montana State (406) was the first team off the podium. The University of Vermont finished in seventh-place with 310 points, which led all eastern squads.
The Alpine team kicked off the action with the giant slalom race on Wednesday, March 9. 34 men faced off in the first day of racing, including Panther junior Rob Cone ’17, who was racing to defend his national title. While Cone was unfortunately unable to finish the race, sophomore Riley Plant ’18 and junior Colin Hayes ’17 were both able to finish in the top 15. Plant skied to 14th place, less than two seconds off the winning time, and Hayes finished just 0.17 seconds behind Plant for 15th. First-year racers Caroline Bartlett ’19 and Lexi Calcagni ’19 were the only two Panther representatives on the women’s side, competing against 32 other racers. Bartlett led the duo with a 19th-place effort, while Calcagni finished in 28th.
With the Panthers sitting in 10th place after the first day of the competition, the Nordic teams took to the trails at Howelsen Hill. Annie Pokorny ’16 and Kelsey Phinney ’16 served as the two Panther representatives on the women’s side. Pokorny led the pack, finishing in 12th place overall and second among eastern skiers. Phinney took home 20th place overall among easterners. In the men’s competition, the lone Panther representative was Patrick McElravey ’17 who finished 28th overall and eighth among eastern skiers.
Heading into the third day of racing, the 11th-place Panthers were on the cusp of entering the top 10. Under the lights on the evening of Friday, March 11, the slalom team took to Howelsen Hill. Hayes led the men’s squad, finishing in 18th overall. Plant and Cone were not far behind, placing 28th and 30th, respectively.
“As a whole, the team showed some strong moments and some weaker moments,” Plant said of the championship weekend performances. “Colin and I were really happy to hold down respectable finishes in the GS [Grand Slalom], especially after Rob’s fall. We are certainly left wanting more, but our team is young so the motivation will carry into the next season really well.”
On the women’s side, Bartlett managed to finish 26th, 11 spots better than her first run position. Calcagni finished 31st overall.
Nordic action completed the Championships on Saturday, March 12, with the women’s 15K and men’s 20K classical events. In her last collegiate race, Pokorny was once again the first Panther to cross the finish line, grabbing the 19th position overall. Close behind was Phinney, who finished 21st. McElravey took 23rd in the men’s competition.
“While I would say [they] put in a great effort, they unfortunately did not have their best showing,” said Alpine Head Coach Stever Barlett. But even though last weekend’s performance did not meet the team’s high expectations, the team is optimistic about its future.
“On a positive note all five Alpine skiers and one Nordic are returning next year,” said Barlett. “Our goal is to win a [combined, Alpine and Nordic] National Championship and this team is already working on that for the future.”