Gabriel Rivas (at right,
racing last season) led the
Buffs at the Utah Invite
with a slalom victory and a
seventh-place finish in GS.
Colorado alpine team opens strong at Utah Invite, but contenders are tightly stacked BY BRYCE HUBNER Buffaloes’ Stance
The University of Colorado Buffaloes charged into Park City and garnered
the most points in three of four alpine events to establish a lead in the first half
of NCAA ski racing’s opening event at the Utah Invitational on Jan. 8 and 9.
The Buffs’ Gabriel Rivas, the 2009 NCAA Champs slalom winner, looks to
have reclaimed his fine form of two seasons ago and punctuated Colorado’s
performance with the fourth Rocky Mountain Intercollegiate Ski Association
(RMISA) slalom victory of his career.
“Gabriel showed us why he’s one of the superior skiers on the hill,” CU alpine
coach Richard Rokos said. “He put two solid runs together. I had him ski a
little conservatively on the first run so he would get a second run, [then] he
went after it and got a win.”
Colorado was in third place after the giant slalom races on Jan. 8 — behind
Denver in first place and Utah in second — but leapt to the front of the pack after the Jan. 9 slaloms. Of course, Rivas’ win contributed to the leap, but Lady
Buffs Sara Hjertman and Caroline Nordh were nearly as strong and finished
second and fourth, respectively. Behind Rivas, CU also squeezed four more
men into the top 15.
“Slalom has been our better event for some reason for the last few years,”
Rokos said. “We had all-around good performances from both our men and
women today. This is especially good because this is a hard hill and it’s hard
to ski consistently on it, so it gives us a lot of confidence to ski well. This is also
the hill where we will ski for the RMISA Championships in six weeks or so, so
doing well gives us a lot of confidence when we return here.”
Colorado’s strong alpine showing is surely welcome news for CU skiing fans,
as the alpine Buffs have struggled to match the power of their nordic team-
mates in recent years.
At the Utah Invitational a year ago, for example, CU nordic racers garnered
top points in the cross country races, but Colorado finished 100 points behind
New Mexico in the alpine standings and did not win a single alpine event.
“For skiing cautiously, I think we did pretty well,” Rokos said of the 2011
opener. “Right now our focus is not only to win this invitational [as a team], but
more importantly to pick up points to qualify for the NCAA Championships.
With World University Games coming up, every race is that much more important. The ultimate goal is to be at full strength for the NCAA Championships
Take note, though, because even with Colorado’s dominance at Park City,
contenders from recent years are in hot pursuit. Colorado sits first with 444
points, Utah second with 435 points, New Mexico third with 417.5 points and
Denver is in fourth with 412 points. In other words, it’s anyone’s game when
cross country action completes the Utah Invite Jan. 21 and 22 at Soldier Hollow.
In the meantime, an RMISA Alpine Qualifier and the Montana State Invitational were scheduled to split Utah’s events Jan. 14-16. Check skiracing.
com for updated NCAA Skiing Power Rankings, which will also include a
brief roundup of EISA’s opening races at the St. Lawrence Carnival Jan. 14
Park City (Jan. 8-9)
1 Eva Huckova, UU
2 Sara Hjertman, CU