Buffs, Ghent win national skiing title | VailDaily.com
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Buffs, Ghent win national skiing title

Daily staff report
Newsroom@vaildaily.com
Vail, CO Colorado
Special to the DailyThe University of Colorado's Erika Ghent cuts a clean line down the hill during the NCAA championship meet in Stowe, Vt. Ghent and the Buffs captured the national title.
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STOWE, Vt. – Goal and tribute accomplished.

The University of Colorado ski team honored its fallen team member, Spencer Nelson, just as it had set out to, by winning the school’s 18th national title in the sport with a solid showing in the slalom Saturday, cruising to victory in the 58th Annual NCAA Skiing Championships.

It was only fitting that the Buffaloes iced the title by closing with a men’s team win in the slalom, a race no doubt Nelson would have participated in after having done so as a freshman last year in Steamboat Springs before a hiking accident took the 20-year-old’s life last August 15.

“It was our goal to do this for Spencer from the beginning, and we were consistently accomplishing that goal throughout the season,” CU head coach Richard Rokos said. “Every single run, every single meet, everybody kept it in their minds. In the end, we accomplished it and it was the biggest satisfaction to follow through. It was a high goal from the start to want to do this for him and his family.”

Nelson’s father, Peter, was in Stowe, Vt., to witness it first-hand.

Colorado amassed 831 team points, the most in the current scoring format which has been applied the last three years; The Buffaloes defeated runner-up Utah by 80.5 points, the fifth biggest winning margin in NCAA ski history: the four larger were by Utah (by 131 in 2003), Vermont (100 in 1990), Denver (99 in 2000) and the CU (98 in 2006).

Helping the cause was Battle Mountain grad Erika Ghent.

After the solid men’s performance Saturday, the Buffs built a 100.5-point lead over Utah heading into the women’s slalom, basically having the title clinched barring total disaster. Regardless, the Buffaloes took few if any risks and the CU women all came in one after the other in finishing 10th, 11th and 12, with the trio timed just 7/100ths of a second apart.

Ghent, a sophomore, led the way with a two-run time of 1 minute, 58.09 seconds, followed by senior Carolina Nordh (1:58.13) and junior Sara Hjertman (1:58.16). Denver’s Sterling Grant, who was dominant in the slalom in the west all winter, remained on a roll in winning in 1:54.27, almost a full second (.98) ahead of teammate Lindsay Cone.

“This feels really good. We’ve worked really hard,” Ghent said. “As everybody knows, we dedicated this season to Spencer and we did it for him, so it’s really cool to have all the hard work pay off.

“On the first run, the conditions were really, really tough, there wasn’t a hard surface. The second run it got cold, so it froze up a little and the conditions were better in general.

“All of our approaches going into today were to be pretty conservative and make sure we got to the bottom. We knew we needed to be solid and fast, but the most important thing was to get to the bottom intact.”

This is CU’s sixth title in skiing since the sport went co-ed in 1983, all under Rokos, as the Buffaloes previously won titles in 1991, 1995, 1998, 1999 and 2006; Colorado had won 11 NCAA men’s and one AIAW women’s titles before the genders merged. Overall, it is the school’s 24th national championship, including three in men’s cross country (2001, 2004, 2006), two in women’s cross country (2000, 2004) and one in football (1990).

Colorado led from wire-to-wire, the first time the Buffaloes accomplished that since a “double” in 1982; that year, the men led throughout in Lake Placid, N.Y., while the women did the same, ironically also in Stowe. Schools leading after three days (six events) have now won 15 of the last 17 titles, and there was no comeback in the works by any of CU’s pursuers Saturday due to a strong but conservative Buffalo approach to the slalom.


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