The worst thing to hit a ski race is fog. The second-worst is snow. Thursday, the NCAA Ski Championships were hit by both, and the results were, as would be expected, disastrous. More so, it may have sealed Vermont's fate and Utah's victory.
It all started when races were first delayed. Then the men's giant slalom was postponed and the women's GS was delayed again. Then the first run of the women's race was run and the second was canceled. And then the women's race was called official with only one run, then it was protested, and finally, after a war of words, it was accepted.The end result: Utah 104, New Mexico 84, Middlebury 76, Colorado 73, Williams 49, Vermont and Wyoming 47, Anchorage-Alaska 45 and Dartmouth 40.
Conditions were poor. Some racers coped, others didn't. That is, Utah's did, Vermont's didn't.
Utah's Anke Freidrich beat the field by nearly two seconds to lead, and teammate Heidi Dahlgren was second and Katja Lesjak fourth. The University of New Mexico and Dartmouth skiers also did well.
Vermont bombed. It lived up to the first-event NCAA jinx. Its best place was 16th, then 23rd and 31st out of 40 racers.
The first-run results were to stand as official, said the race director.
"It wasn't fair," said Vermont Coach Chip LaCasse. "They should never have held the first run. Visibility on the first run was worse than on the second, and they canceled the second. It just wasn't fair. If the race stands, it will hurt us."
An NCAA rule says a two-run race that is stopped after one run will stand as a completed race.
"If they don't want the race to stand, then they should never have held the first run, but they did," said Utah Coach Pat Miller.
When the first run was held, Friedrich was ready. Her alpine coach, Thor Kallerud, was up most of the night testing snow to pick the right wax - and he did.
Freidrich had raced under poor conditions before and had not done well. This race, she determined, was going to be different. "This time I put everything out of my mind . . . the fog, the snow, the delays. I ran on the edge. I almost fell twice. I came real close. I didn't think I did that well," she said.
The Ute leader clocked a run of one minute, 19.98 seconds. Dahlgren was second in 1:20.29, third was Erica Nourjian of Middlebury in 1:20.61, and fourth was Lesjak in 1:20.74. Vermont's best was Gella Hamberg in 1:23.71, which is no place for a title contender.
All four of Utah's skiers were in the first seed of 10 skiers, as were Vermont's.
The new schedule called for the men to finish their GS on Friday at the same time the men's and women's nordic teams held their first of two cross country races. The slalom was to be Friday.