Steamboat Springs The Bluffs Loop was all Buffs.
Three University of Colo--rado cross-country skiers, including champion Jana Rehemaa, finished in the top seven during Thursday's five-kilometer women's race on the second day of the 2006 NCAA Men's and Women's Skiing Championships.
"That's the way we were doing pretty much throughout the year, so I was hoping for it," Colorado coach Richard Rokos said.
Rehemaa, who did not ski with the Buffs last season, won the classic race in 16 minutes, 29.6 seconds.
"For that course, that is a really smoking time," Chief of Race Todd Wilson said.
Rehemaa, a native of Estonia, returned home this season in an effort to make her country's powerhouse Olympic team. When she did not, she returned to the U.S. to resume schooling and her competitive collegiate season.
In late January in Steamboat Springs, Rehemaa was runner-up in the classic and freestyle races at Howelsen Hill.
On Thursday, she took first. Teammate Maria Grevsgaard was second in 16:36.0. Lenka Palanova was seventh for CU in 17:17.5.
"No, I was not really con--fident," Rehemaa said. "Every--thing kind of happened."
The racers left the start in 30-second increments, and Rehemaa was one of the last skiers to leave the rodeo grounds. The women followed a five-kilometer course up Howelsen and out on the Bluffs Loop.
Fresh snow on the course made conditions slower for the classic skiers, but it didn't prevent the top 38 skiers in the college ranks from posting impressive times.
"I think it's a little tougher (than most college courses), but I like this course," Rehemaa said.
Colorado and the Western Region dominated the women's race at Howelsen. Seven of the top 10 racers were from the Western half of the country. Northern Michigan University's Lindsey Weier finished third in 16:54.3.
The performance turned in by CU's Nordic women boosted the team, which did not have a great showing during Thursday's giant slalom races, into second place. The Buffs trail defending champion University of Denver by 30.5 points heading into today's slalom races at Howelsen. The men's first run is at 5:15 p.m., and the women's is at 6:30 p.m.
-- To reach Melinda Mawdsley, call 871-4208 or e-mail email@example.com