CU, DU step to the front on Day 2 of NCAA Championships | SteamboatToday.com

CU, DU step to the front on Day 2 of NCAA Championships

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Interval-start cross-country ski racing can be a brutal variation on a sport already known to drain every last bit of energy and fight out of its athletes.

Skiers set out at an assigned time, one by one, and the last racer is still on course before the first finishes, so there's no time to strategize and little way to know how the race is even going aside from the last few racers.

It's a battle against one's self, against the mind and the body, to leverage the former against the latter to give as much as possible because who knows how the next skier's doing.

It requires constant focus, an on-going conversation in the head, though 90 minutes after she'd finished, Dartmouth College's Katharine Ogden couldn't recall a single word of that conversation.

"When I have a good race, I really don't remember what I was thinking," she said.

Whatever she said to herself, it worked. She beat her own limitations, and she beat the rest of the 40-racer field on Thursday in the classic skiing interval start race of the 2018 NCAA Ski National Championships in Steamboat Springs.

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Racing on Emerald Mountain, Ogden helped lead the way on a day that saw her school lock up its second win in the first four races of the event and that also saw traditional favorites University of Colorado and University of Denver begin to stretch out to a lead in the team championship race.

Ogden won on the women's side, finishing one lap around the 5-kilometer course in 14 minutes, 47.2 seconds.

That was fast enough for a resounding victory, 47 seconds ahead of the next finisher, CU's Anne Siri Lervik at 15:34.1. Hailey Swirlbul of University of Alaska-Anchorage was third at 15:38.2.

It didn't feel quite so dominating, but so it goes in the grind that is cross-country skiing interval start events.

Her team arrived in Steamboat a week before the events started in hopes of acclimating, but the vast change in altitude still proved daunting, and it made her feel like she'd been more average than exceptional.

"With the transition from the East to the West, you're just skiing slower, so when I crossed the finish line, I felt decent," Ogden said.

University of Utah's Martin Bergstrom won on the men's side, coming in from the 10K, two-lap race in 27:37.1. CU's Petter Reistad was second and Dag Forde Trolleboe, of DU, third.

The men's race especially proved big for DU. It also had a skier in fourth place, Evind Kvaale while Lars Hannah, a junior for the Pioneers and a Steamboat Springs skier, placed 23rd.

The task in a race like Thursday's isn't easy for any skiers, and it wasn't easy for Hannah, who was the first skier to start on the men's side, heading out without a single benchmark to use to push himself.

Another Steamboat racer, University of Vermont sophomore Finn O'Connell, placed 38th in his first NCAA Championships event and had a similar problem as the race's fifth starter.

"It is pretty hard, but I was excited," Hannah said. "I'm happy with my race. I broke a pole at the top of the hill and that was hard to come back from, but I was pretty pleased. … I was hoping to maybe get into the top 10, but I'm looking forward to Saturday."

DU's big result on the men's side helped keep the squad near the top of the team standings, but CU was even better on the women's side, allowing the Buffaloes to grab the overall lead at the event's halfway point.

CU has 276 points, picking up 84 in the women's 5K race. It had all three of its racers in the top 11 then had two men in the top seven.

DU trails with 267 points, and Utah, the defending national champions, is third at 235. Dartmouth, which also had a skier win Wednesday's men's giant slalom, is fourth at 217.5 points, hurting from the fact that it only had 4.5 points in Wednesday's womens GS while averaging 71 points per event in the three other events.

The Alpine skiers are back Friday starting at 6:30 p.m. with slalom races under the lights at Howelsen Hill. The Nordic skiers then will race their final event Saturday, a mass start freestyle ski race at Howelsen to wrap up the four-day NCAA event.

NCAA Ski National Championships

Through four of eight events

1. University of Colorado, 276

2. University of Denver, 267

3. University of Utah, 235

4. Dartmouth College, 217.5

5. University of Vermont, 162

6. Middlebury College, 143

6. Montana State University, 143

8. University of New Mexico, 140

9. University of Alaska Anchorage, 99

10. Northern Michigan University, 86