Another competition, another drop in the standings as the Utah ski team competed last weekend at the New Mexico Invitational.
After winning their first invitational on home snow in Park City, the Utes have slowly been sliding. Utah left New Mexico in fourth place with a final score of 549. Although the Utes are dropping in a slow yet consistent manner, skiers say luck just hasn’t been on their side, and they are better than their finishes indicate.
“I think overall this year our team is really strong, but we were really unlucky with conditions all the time,” said junior alpine skier Ana Kobal. “I wouldn’t say that we were skiing bad. The conditions just weren’t in our favor. It’s so much different every race. Sometimes it was windy. Sometimes it was bad snow … There are so many different factors that can affect you.”
New Mexico took first place with a score of 655, and defending national champion Denver placed just ahead of Utah in third, although the Pioneers had some of their best skiers absent, including some at the Olympics in Sochi, Russia. Colorado took second.
Chloe Fausa highlighted the women’s team in the first women’s slalom, placing sixth, while Kobal placed sixth in the second women’s slalom. For the men, Andy Trow took sixth overall for the Utes in the first slalom, and Mark Engel skied to the podium in the second men’s slalom, placing second. Fausa and Engel started despite the fact they were both recovering from competition the weekend prior.
Because the men’s team has been riddled with injury and some have been away at different competitions, there has been added pressure for the skiers who do compete to not only finish their races but also perform well, something the women’s team is empathetic toward.
“There’s just four of them, and when Mark went to NorAm, that puts a lot of pressure on the other three because they have to finish,” Fausa said. “If you have three at start, all three have to finish. The guys are doing really well with that. Last year we had just three girls, and this year we have six girls. I think we are a lot better. The results just don’t show that.”
Utah has one more meet before the NCAA Championships, which will be held on the Utes’ home snow. Alpine events will be in Park City, and Nordic events will be at Soldier Hollow. Utah plans on using its home snow as an advantage.
“We have a good team,” Fausa said. “We should be pretty confident about [nationals], especially since we have our home hill — that should be an advantage.”
Up next for the Utes is the RMISA Championships and NCAA West Regional on Feb. 21-22 in Colorado.