Buffs trample NCAA field

CU men place three in top four

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— With one lap remaining in Saturday's 20-kilometer skate race, University of Colorado skier Henrik Wol Hoye threw his arms up in the air as the lead pack glided past the fans.

Hoye was in third place, so why the celebration? It was because teammates Kit Richmond and Erling Christiansen were in first and second places.

Richmond went on to win the NCAA championship in 55 minutes, 14.7 seconds, and Christiansen and Hoye took third and fourth, respectively. It was CU's second individual title during the weekend.

"I'd have to say, unequivocally, 'Yes,'" Richmond replied when asked whether Saturday's win was unexpected. "I was sick on Thursday -- really bad flu. I didn't know how I was going to feel today. I just got on solid food about 24 hours ago. I was expecting, at best, a top 10, so this is phenomenal."

Richmond, who hails from Alberta, Canada, said he didn't know he had the title won until the final 200 meters.

"My legs were on the threshold of blowing up on me," Richmond said. "My teammates were helping me out to lead a bit, switching it off. It all came together at the end. I had just enough to make it count."

After the second of four 5-kilometer laps at Howelsen Hill, a lead pack of six skiers separated themselves from the field -- the three CU skiers, two University of Alaska-Anchorage skiers and Dartmouth freshman Glenn Randall.

Randall missed part of the season because of an illness and because he competed in the 2006 U.S. Junior World Championships. On Saturday, the Plateau Valley High School graduate and Collbran resident became an All-American with his fifth-place finish in 55:39.6.

"It was the most patient race I've ever had," Randall said.

The Buffs took the team lead after Friday night's slalom runs, courtesy of a dominant performance from the women. The CU Nordic men came out Saturday morning and skied as if their team was coming from behind.

"We started at zero," Rich--mond said. "We can't start thinking about what position you want to be in. You just go out there and try and pass as many people as you can."

Buffs coach Richard Rokos said he was all over the Howelsen Hill course during the men's race, as CU -- the first team in NCAA skiing history to win a title despite not fielding a full team of 12 skiers -- distanced itself in the standings.

"I think (the men's finish) caught pretty much everyone by surprise," he said. "I knew they could do it."

Most people thought the team title would be decided by the women's Nordic race, and it still did for teams jockeying to finish second through fifth. But CU had the national title all but locked up after the men's 20-kilometer freestyle race.

Alaska-Anchorage's Ben--jamin Sonntag was second Sat--urday in 55:16.4. Christiansen was third in 55:20.1.

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