Cats Claw Back To Take Skiing Lead
March 13, 2009
Courtesy of Bates College, Hosts
BETHEL, Maine -- University of Colorado freshman Gabriel Rivas won the men's slalom title on Friday at the NCAA Skiing Championships at Sunday River, while New Mexico's Malin Hemmingsson and Estelle Pecherand-Carmet went 1-2 in the women's slalom, leading the Lobos to surge from sixth place to three points out of first place in the team standings, with one day remaining in the championships.
Vermont took a slight lead among a tightly packed top three in the team standings. The Catamounts, looking for their first team title since 1994, have 484 points. Defending champion University of Denver has 482 points and New Mexico has 481. Utah (444) and Colorado (439.5) round out the top five teams.
It’s only the third time in the last 13 seasons the lead has been in single digits at the three-quarter point; in 1997, Utah led CU by seven and went on to win by 39.5 points; and in 2006, Colorado led Denver by five before posting a 98-point win.
Rivas, a native of St. Jean de Maurienne, France, had the fastest run of the day in his first run, at 47.77 seconds, and claimed his first NCAA title with a combined time of 1:36.69, a day after finishing 18th in the giant slalom.
"Since I've been in the U.S., I've thought about this race, and it's very special because it's only a one-day race, not a ranking," said Rivas. "It's really an achievement to do that. I won, but everyone won at CU; it's teamwork."
Rivas was 0.81 seconds ahead of runner-up Petter Brenner of New Mexico. Rounding out the top five individuals were Leif Haugen of Denver, Joshua Kernan of Colby and Sean McNamara of New Hampshire.
Rivas is Colorado's first NCAA champion in men's slalom since Andy Leroy in 2000.
New Mexico continued its powerhouse day in the women's slalom. Hemmingsson won her second NCAA slalom title, with a two-run combined time of 1:42.36, after also taking first in 2007 as a freshman. She was followed by her sophomore teammate, Estelle Pecherand-Carmet, at 1:43.58. Vermont duo Jilyne McDonald and Megan Ryley were fourth and fifth, respectively, and New Hampshire's Aileen Farrell rounded out the top five.
"It feels great -- I did it two years ago [when New Hampshire hosted the NCAAs], so I guess I like the ice," said Hemmingsson. "We were skiing on mogul courses all year, and then we come here and we can actually push, so it's pretty cool. This year we still have a chance of winning [the team title] if we do good in Nordic tomorrow, and we are."
The alpine competition at the NCAA Championships closes out with New Mexico scoring the most points in alpine, with 354 points, just a point ahead of New Hampshire (353).
The NCAA Skiing Championships conclude tomorrow with the Nordic freestyle races at Black Mountain in Rumford, Maine. The women's 15K Freestyle race starts at 10 a.m., followed by the men's 20K Freestyle at 12 p.m.
The three-point difference between the top three teams is the closest heading into the final two events in the NCAA Championships since the sport went coed in 1983; the previous tightest margin among the top three through six events came in 1997, when Utah (533), Colorado (526) and Vermont (524.5) were separated by eight-and-a-half points.
The closest margin in the final standings since 1983 came in 1998, when Colorado edged Utah by 2.5 points; the final spread has been 10 points or lower just four times (1986, 1989, 1995 and 1998).