Classmates won the giant slalom here Friday in the University of Utah Invitational. Not recent classmates, but school chums from across the ocean and a long time ago in Sr. Bitnie, Yugoslavia.
That's what made the win more special to Urban Planisek from a small Tahoe, Nev., school - Sierra Nevada College - and to Katja Lesjak, a junior at the University of Utah.Even before he talked about his win, the tall Yugoslavian racer pointed out that he and Lesjak went to the same school as children, "we used to talk together in class . . . now we've won this race together."
Planisek beat a field of 50 university and college skiers to win the men's GS in a time of 1 minute, 19.45 seconds. SNC is not a member of the NCAA and therefore is not eligible to score points in the Ute event.
Second overall and first in the NCAA class was John Etham of Utah, with a time of 1:19.56, and third was teammate Oeivind Ragnhildstveit in 1:19.78. Eric Archer, of the University of Colorado, leader after the first run, fell to fourth after a poor second run.
Lesjak, who underwent knee surgery during the summer of 1989 and spent most of last season on the recovery road, beat the field of 41 women on both runs. Her combined two-run time was 1:17.56.
Second was Jennifer Barrett of Colorado, with a 1:18.58, and third was Maria Nilsson of the University of New Mexico, in 1:19.01. Utah's Heidi Dahlgren and Karianne Eriksen finished in fourth and fifth, respectively.
A mountain range to the east, the Utes were collecting points in the cross country portion of the meet at the White Pine Touring Center in Park City.
In the women's 5 kilometer classical style race, Utah's Venke Hatleberg won with a time of 17 minutes, 27.5 seconds. Second was Annette Skyolden of CU, in 17:40.9.
In the men's 10 kilometer classical, Stig Mattsson of the University of Anchorage-Alaska, beat two Utes to win the event. His time was 30:51.6. Second was Luke Bodensteiner, 31:03.1, and third was Frederic Tedborn, 31:35.6.
The Utes held a slight lead after the cross country in team scoring. The strong showing in the alpine events almost assured them of another Utah Invitational title.
Looking back at his GS race, Planisek said he was as surprised as anyone at his success.
"I usually don't ski giant slalom that well. I do better in slalom," he said from the finish area. "Usually, I can tell how I do in the slalom, but not in the giant slalom."
Planisek is coached by Chris Hendrickson, a former coach of the Snowbird Ski Foundation.
Lesjak was more pleased about how she skied than with the fact that she'd won.
The knee, she said, didn't bother her. And, the fact that she was able to ski well meant that the healing process was complete.
"Last year I felt weak and did not ski well. Today I felt very good. I think my knee is better now. It's good to know that I can ski and my knee won't bother me," she said.
Both Planisek and Lesjak said the first courses were more consistent, while the second courses were straight on the top sections and turny on the bottom sections. Both admitted that the way the second course was set made skiing a little tricky.
The event will continue today with a second GS at Solitude and a cross country at the touring center. The nordic event will be a five and 10 kilometer freestyle race.