DU and its Steamboat Springs skiers are national champions yet again
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Skiing hasn’t always been a team kind of thing for Steamboat Springs Alpine skier Jett Seymour.
Sure, he’s been on plenty of teams, from the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club team to various regional and national championship teams, and that all opened the door for him to make it on the U.S. Ski Team last spring.
It also opened the door for him to be on the University of Denver ski team, and for all the teams Seymour has been a part of through the years, that’s the one that proved different.
It certainly felt different Saturday, the final day of the NCAA Ski Championships in Steamboat Springs, as the nation’s best collegiate Nordic skiers took to Howelsen Hill for the men’s and women’s freestyle cross-country ski races.
Seymour’s own events were over after a strong finish Friday in the slalom at Howelsen Hill. Saturday, he felt nervous like he never does in the starting gate as all he could do was watch.
He watched DU’s Nordic skiers — including Steamboat skier Lars Hannah — hold off their rivals from the University of Colorado and lock up the school’s 24th skiing national championship and its third in the past five years.
He made the decision to both compete with the U.S. Ski Team, and with DU. Saturday, that decision paid off big for him.
“It’s one of the better decisions I’ve ever made in my life,” he said. “Being a part of a team is a good way to elevate your skiing career. There’s nothing like winning as a team.”
DU trailed midway through the four-day competition, but got a big boost from its Alpine skiers Friday on the steep slalom slopes of Howelsen Hill. Seymour was ninth in the slalom to help in those efforts.
That gave the Pioneers and their big Steamboat contingent — Seymour, Hannah and head coach Andy LeRoy — a lead heading into the final day and there Hannah and his teammates only expanded the advantage, besting CU in both the men’s and women’s races and finishing with 604 points.
CU, which was chasing its 21st national championship, was second after a strong week of its own, finishing with 563 points.
Dartmouth College was third after freshman Katharine Ogden finished off a championship sweep of the women’s Nordic skiing events, dominating Saturday’s 15-kilometer freestyle race.
The Big Green emerged with wins in four of the week’s eight races, sweeping the women’s Nordic events and the men’s Alpine races.
Denver, meanwhile, had individual champs in two events, both the women’s Alpine races and both from the fast skis of Amelia Smart.
Beyond that, it was the Pioneers’ depth that carried them to the title, and Saturday Hannah, a junior, was a big factor in that regard.
He led through parts of the men’s 20K freestyle cross-country race.
“I was feeling the hometown crowd and feeling the love,” he said.
He wasn’t at the front late, but charged in for a seventh-place finish.
The season was a struggle, he said, as he dealt with back spasms that plagued his Classic skiing races. He’d only actually been able to finish one this season before Thursday’s national championship Classic race. He was in top form Saturday, however.
Northern Michigan University’s Ian Torchia pulled away late to win the race and CU’s Alvar Alev was close behind in second place.
That scored big points for the Buffaloes, but DU got a third-place finish from Eivind Kvaale and a fourth from Dag Frode Trolleboe.
Hannah was in next, just ahead of the final two CU skiers, Petter Reistad, ninth, and Sondre Bollum, 10th, helping lock up that overall team championship.
“I’m so happy right now,” Hannah said, celebrating his second NCAA championship with DU. His first came in Steamboat as well, two years ago.
“There’s always an element of pressure,” he said, “but what makes this team so special is the way we rise to the occasion and are able to accomplish what we came here to do.”
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Basalt went 11-5 in the shortened regular season and finished a mere fourth in the Class 3A Western Slope League behind Moffat County, Gunnison and Delta. Then the Longhorns were the No. 21 seed in regional play that only includes 24 teams, but still shook up the bracket with a pair of big upsets.