Buffs charge into lead

CU women shine in NCAA slalom at Howelsen Hill

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— Lucie Zikova, one of the nation's top slalom skiers all season, had struggled on previous races at Howelsen Hill.

She turned to University of Colorado teammate Lisa Perricone, a former Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club skier, for tips on conquering the downtown slope.

"She obviously has a lot of experience on this hill," Zikova said. "She's a nice girl, so she helped me out. It looks easy, but it's not an easy hill. You have to know where to let your skis go."

Zikova and Perricone looked like Howelsen Hill veterans Friday under the lights, taking first and fourth, respectively, in the 2006 NCAA women's slalom race.

Zikova's winning time was 1 minute, 22.77 seconds. Perricone was just off the podium in fourth in 1:23.41. University of Vermont's Jilyne McDonald was second in 1:23.02, and Middlebury's Megan Hughes was third in 1:23.15.

Perricone also was fifth in Wednesday's giant slalom, giving the local skier two top-five results in her NCAA Championships debut.

"I feel like I did have a lot of expectations coming home," Perricone said. "I knew I could come here and do well and really wanted to."

Perricone didn't start the season with high expectations because she was a freshman, but that changed as the season progressed.

"It was a whole new crowd of racers," she said. "I had no idea where I'd be, and I started skiing fast."

Zikova laid down the fastest time in the first slalom run Friday. Her 0.67-second lead against McDonald held up in the second run.

"I heard at the top the girls were skiing really fast and really well," said Zikova, a native of the Czech Republic. "It's hard to keep focused. You just have to think about how you ski. You aren't beating those girls. You are beating the hill."

And Howelsen Hill did plenty of beating up Friday. Several women were forced to hike up the face after blowing out of their lines and missing gates. Any slight balance check or form break cost precious time, which showed in the final results.

The top six skiers were separated by less than one second. The difference between second and sixth was 0.69 seconds.

The lead the University of Denver held in the team race after two days is gone. Friday night's slalom results shook up the team standings. The Pioneers struggled in the men and women's races, and the female Buffs dominated, placing all three skiers in the top 12.

After three days of skiing, CU is leading the team race with 447 points. New Mexico is in second with 442 points. DU is third with 420.5 points, and Vermont is in fourth with 410 points.

The race for top team comes down to the men's 20-kilometer and women's 15-kilometer freestyle cross-country ski races at 10 a.m. today at Howelsen Hill.

"Individual results are cool, but you are doing it for the team," Perricone said. "That's what makes it so exciting about the college circuit. It's so much fun."

-- To reach Melinda Mawdsley, call 871-4208 or e-mail mmawdsley@steamboatpilot.com

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