The University of Utah and the University of Vermont, perennial favorites in the NCAA Ski Championships, fell on more hard times Friday.
Meanwhile, the University of Colorado took what made the Utes and Catamounts great in the 1980s - consistency - and all but clinched its first ski title in a decade.Going into the final event today, the cross country classical race, only Vermont is within reach of Colorado. It would take total domination of both the men's and women's races, however, and a complete collapse by Colorado.
By the same token, Utah could catch Vermont and Wyoming could catch Utah. Point totals are Colorado with 574, Vermont 496, Utah 444, Wyoming 435, Dartmouth 389 and University of New Mexico 359.
Without some surprises and disappointments, however, this event will finish as it stands now - Colorado, Vermont, Utah and Wyoming.
The two words most often spoken in Utah and Vermont ski circles the last few days have been "bad luck." The Utes have had the black cloud over them all season; Vermont for this event. Both schools had problems in Wednesday's giant slalom and Thursday's cross country freestyle.
Friday, in the women's slalom only one skier from each school stood up for two runs. Typically, each school would put three racers in the top 10. This race Vermont skiers finished 9-26-34 and Utah's 11-21-32.
"What can you say," expressed Chip LaCasse, "it's just bad luck. We came here with a women's team that hasn't lost all year. They're one of the best I've had. We haven't had a screw-up all year . . . until now.
"Then there's Sally Knight. She's No. 1 in both slalom and GS (giant slalom). She hasn't fallen all season . . . until now. It's just bad luck."
Utah's ladies didn't do much better. Only one finished in the top 15 - Katja Lesjak - and that took a perfect run to balance out a bad one. She was 26th after the first run, but turned in the fastest second run by nearly a full second to move to 11th. Sylvie Seigneur, 4th after the first run, ran into bad luck on the second and fell to 21st. Karianne Eriksen finished 32nd after a fall on her first run. And Gillian Frost, who fell on her first run and had to hike get back into the course, did not start the second run.
Meanwhile, CU ladies finished 3-4-7.
Winning the event was Heather Flood, a Sun Valley resident skiing for Middlebury College. It was, as she said, like being at home skiing on Utah snow.
She did admit to being concerned about this race.
"The other girls on the team haven't done as well as we'd hoped," she said. "Just bad luck for us, but it made me nervous."
Her two-run time was 1 minute, 54.62 seconds. Second was Andrea Hartmann of Wyoming in 1:54.70 and third was Hana Pochobradska of Colorado in 1:54.98.
Things moved back to normal in the men's slalom. Here Vermont finished 1-2-6 and Utah 5-7-8. But Colorado maintained its consistency - 3-9-11.
Winning the event was Einar Boehmer of Vermont. His two-run total was 1:51.26. Second was Jeff McVey, also from Vermont, in 1:51.69, and third was Toni Standteiner of Colorado, winner of Wednesday's GS, in 1:52.02.
Utah's Oyvind Ragnhildstveit finished 5th in 1:54.60.John Ethen was 7th and Loic Lemoine was 8th for the Utes.
Ethen said he was pleased with his finish, but wasn't pleased about the hard times the ladies encountered.
"They're better than that. It's not that we weren't ready, because we were. It's just bad luck. That's all it is. Bad luck."
He also noted that the team came into the slalom knowing that it had to score points if it had any hope of catching Colorado.
Other factors, too, could have played in the difficulties schools had.
The weather didn't help. It snowed off and on during the entire event. Also, snow conditions were a little softer than skiers, especially eastern skiers, like. The hill itself was a problem to many.
Boehmer repeated what several racers mentioned, that the hill was steep and tricky.
"It doesn't look that steep, but it is. If you got going too fast you can get into trouble. It's also one of the longest courses we've skied. At the end, there, I was tired," he said.
The cross country race will be in the valley north of Jeremy Ranch. Races will start with the women's 15 kilometer at 9 a.m., followed by the men's 20 kilometer at 10:30 a.m.
Although upsets are unlikely at this point, they are possible. The four top schools will not only be looking to climb in the finals, but hoping, at least, to hold on to what they've got.