Alf Wold surprised even himself this year. He came to the BYU campus looking for an education, and with hopes that maybe, if he were lucky, he'd make the ski team.
He was a good skier in Norway, but not great. No one asked him to ski on the national team. He skied in one World Cup last year but didn't finish. He skied in 10 to 15 Europa Cups, too, but didn't turn any heads.A friend, Hans Gunbleikrud, having been on the BYU campus and skied at nearby resorts, suggested they try BYU.
Wold, now 23, came to Provo in August, tried out for the team when it snowed and made it . . . and ever since has dominated the Western Division of the National Collegiate Ski Association.
He has skied in eight races this year, a mix of slalom and giant-slalom races, and has won seven. His latest win came at Park City on Thursday and propelled the Cougars into a commanding lead in the Western Regional Collegiate Championships.
The latest win came in the giant slalom. From a field of 90 racers, the first-year racer took a half a second lead over his closest rival after the first run, then increased it to more than a second after his second run.
His combined time was two minutes, 31.11 seconds. Runner-up was Eric Peterson of Colorado Mountain College, in 2:32.28. Third was Brent LaBounty of the College of Idaho. Gunbleikrud finished 12th.
Is he surprised by his success? "Yes," he said, very matter-of-factly. "I just didn't expect to do this well. It's helped me to ski here. In Europe I started number 60. There were always big ruts. Now I start early and the course is good."
His first run was errorless. On his second run he made one little mistake on the second-to-last gate, but it wasn't at all costly.
Peterson made a couple of mistakes on his first run and none on his second, and still he couldn't catch Wold.
Team scores, figured on the combined times of the three top finishers on each team, with the lowest being the best, had BYU with 461.80, followed by College of Idaho at 466.45, Central Oregon Community College 466.46, Colorado Mountain College 468.79 and Western State College 469.16.
Friday, the women moved onto the GS course at Park City to begin their race for an alpine title. Also, at Jeremy Ranch the nordic competition started with the men's and women's individual cross country.
Saturday, the men and women will share a slalom course at Park City, while the two groups finish up the nordic with a men's and women's team relay.
The top five teams in each event will move on to the NCSA Nationals in Lake Tahoe, Calif., March 7-10.