Utah wins its fourth straight NCAA skiing title

Lake Placid native Scott Schulz places 20th to end collegiate skiing career

Harvard’s Remi Drolet skis downhill with Colorado’s Magnus Boe right behind him during the men’s 20K classic mass start race in Lake Placid on March 11. (News photo — Parker O’Brien)

LAKE PLACID — With 1.5 team points separating the University of Utah and the University of Colorado-Boulder on the final day of racing in the National Collegiate Athletic Association Skiing National Championships, it seemed like the title was going to come down to the wire.

That was until Utah’s Novie McCabe and the rest of the Utes’ women’s Nordic ski team posted a dominating effort on Saturday, March 11, solidifying the program’s fourth straight NCAA skiing title on Saturday, March 11 at Mt. Van Hovenberg.

The Utah ski team edged out Colorado 526-491.5 in the four-day Alpine and Nordic event. The University of Denver finished in third with 416.5 points, the University of Vermont was fourth with 343 and Dartmouth was fifth with 335.5.

“It wasn’t an easy championship but we fought through and we all did what we needed to do,” said Utah’s Madison Hoffman, who won two women’s individual Alpine events during the championships. “It was a great accumulation of a season of hard work.”

Utah trailed Colorado in the team standings prior to the final day of racing and with one final Alpine event on Friday, March 10 — the women’s slalom — Hoffman was determined to give the Utes the lead in the team standing.

Members of the University of Utah ski team raise their fourth-straight NCAA championship trophy at Mount Van Hoevenberg on Saturday. March 11. (News photo — Parker O’Brien)

In her first slalom run at Whiteface Mountain, she posted the fastest time, which left her as the final skier to compete in the race.

“I knew I was in the lead going into the slalom and I was like, ‘that would be cool to come away with two,'” she said on Saturday, March 11. “To be able to actually do it and to be the only one up there and have everyone at the bottom knowing that I had to perform was a lot of pressure.” Hoffman took first place in the event, which was just enough to give Utah the slim lead over Colorado, and on the final day, the Utes’ women’s Nordic team took three of the top five honors en route to the team’s 15th NCAA national skiing title.

The women’s Nordic team contributed 103 points to their team total in the women’s 20K classic, which was the most by any one team in the competition.

“We were so close with (Colorado) and we still are coming into this so we wanted to put down some good performances today,” McCabe said. “I think we managed to do that in the girls’ race.”

McCabe, a 2022 Olympian, powered Utah with a dominating time of 1 hour, 4.3 seconds to win the race.

Utah’s Novie McCabe, right, leads her teammate Sydney Palmer-Leger during the women’s 20K class race on Saturday, March 11. (News photo — Parker O’Brien)

For much of the race, a pack of five skiers held on to the top spots, and for nearly the entire contest McCabe led.

Behind her was a pair of Utah teammates Sophia Laukli, who finished in third place in 1:00:25.3, and Sydney Palmer-Leger in fifth at 1:01:31.2.

Colorado’s Hanna Abrahamsson finished in second place overall in 1:00:23.9, while Mariel Pulles, of the University of Alaska-Fairbanks, was fourth in 1:01:20.9.

The 20K classic win was McCabe’s second individual win of the national championships. She previously won the 5K freestyle on Thursday, March 9, but she said that Saturday’s race meant a lot to her.

“Classic skiing is something I’ve been trying to work on a lot,” McCabe said. “I’ve been enjoying it a lot lately. It’s so fun to ski with that group of girls that I was skiing with the whole time.”

The University of New Hampshire’s Scott Schulz, of Lake Placid, competes in the men’s 20K classic race at Mount Van Hoevenberg on March 11. (News photo — Parker O’Brien)

McCabe told the News on Thursday, March 9 that the freestyle race was one of the hardest 5K races she has ever done. On Saturday, March 11, she said that this was also one of the hardest 20K races she has ever done.

“I think this course is never easy,” she said.

Due to an excellent performance by their women’s Nordic team, Utah had a comfortable 25.5-point lead over Colorado heading into the men’s race.

Utah was able to seal the national championship after Samuel Hendry finished in fourth place overall for the Utes in 55:43. Hendry was followed by teammates Luke Jager (57:01.7) in 11th and Walker Hall (58:43.0) in 17th.

Harvard’s Remi Drolet, also a 2022 Olympian, won the men’s 20K race in 54:54.6. Drolet said the win meant everything to him and it was one of his biggest goals coming into the year.

“This past week I’ve had a lot of school and not as much sleep as I wanted,” he said. “I got out there today and I decided I really wanted it and it was a really hard fight all the way until the finish. I’m so glad that I was able to come away with a win.”

For most of the race, Drolet held on to the top spot, until the final 5K when Dartmouth’s John Steel Hagenbuch passed him.

Hagenbuch made a similar move in Lake Placid during the men’s 30K mass start at the FISU Winter World University Games in January. Back then it worked in his favor, giving him a gold medal — the lone U.S. cross-country skier to win gold at the Games.

His attack seemed to be working out again, as he put distance on Drolet in the final lap.

“Hagenbuch — not to jinx him — with an insurmountable lead,” the race announcer said nearing the end of the race.

However, Drolet still had enough energy to take back the lead.

“I just saw him — he’s pretty strong at the bottom of the hill — and I was a bit tired,” Drolet said. “I was fighting to follow him and at the last climb at the top, I decided ‘You know what I’m not going to let this slide.’ “I caught him at the top and I think it broke his spirits a little bit,” he added. “I was just able to pull away from him through the rolling terrain.”

Drolet pulled away on the last uphill climb and took the lead for good. Hagenbuch settled for his second second-place finish of the national championships in 54:59.3. The University of Vermont’s Jacob Nystedt finished the race in third place in 55:17.4.

“I’ve had such a great team surrounding me all year, great coaches and my teammates,” Drolet said. “I just value them so much, they’ve supported me all the way here. It’s really just a win for the team as well as myself.”

Lake Placid native and Nordic skier for the University of New Hampshire, Scott Schulz, placed 20th in 59:17.8.

“I’m not going to complain about that. It was definitely not easy,” Schulz said. “Somehow skied differently when we were here at regionals. I don’t know what happened but it was a lot harder.”

For Schulz, a senior at the University of New Hampshire, the race on Saturday, March 11 was the final competition of his collegiate-skiing career.

“It’s really just kind of poetic that I started here and it ends here,” he said.

Schulz said he was glad that his family and friends could be in attendance for his final collegiate race. “It’ll probably give me a little while to set in,” he said.

Nordic freestyle race

Joe Davies, of the University of Alaska-Fairbanks, says he’s used to having to travel all over for competitions.

And it’s probably safe to say that you should be if you compete for the UAF Nanooks, who had to take a roughly 13 hours flight just to get to Lake Placid for the NCAA Skiing National Championships.

While Davies didn’t travel from Alaska like the rest of his team, he did travel from Slovenia after competing in the World Championships.

“Honestly, coming from Europe, it was almost the same amount of travel as the rest of the team coming from Fairbanks,” he said.

But despite the long flight over to the United States — along with potentially getting jet lag — Davies proved that he’s one of the best Nordic collegiate skiers in the nation on Thursday.

Racing at Mount Van Hoevenberg on Thursday, March 9, Davies won the men’s 10K individual freestyle race in a time of 22 minutes, 33.2 seconds.

“I was a little unsure of how it would go,” Davies said. “I felt good with a lot of race prep (on Wednesday) and was feeling good. I knew that if everything worked out today it was going to be a good day.”

Davies edged out Dartmouth’s Hagenbuch, who won a gold and a bronze medal in Lake Placid in January during the FISU Winter World University Games. Hagenbuch, a sophomore at Dartmouth, finished with a time of 22:58.2. The University of Denver’s Bernhard Flaschberger was third overall in 23:03.5.

For Davies, it was his first time in Lake Placid and so far it’s been a pretty good trip.

“There was a couple (of people) on our team that were here for the University Games, but I haven’t skied here before,” Davies said. “But as soon as I got here I knew these trails are great and the course suits me quite well.”

Unlike Davies, Schulz knows the area pretty well.

The University of New Hampshire skier, who graduated from Lake Placid High School in 2018, said he used to compete in a lot of competitions at Mount Van Hoevenberg when he was younger.

“Once they put in the new trails a couple of years ago it has turned into a whole other beast,” Schulz said. “It’s absolutely World Cup-level. It’s hard. It’s really hard.”

In his fourth career NCAA skiing championship appearance, Schulz placed 12th overall out of a 40-skier field. He finished the 10K course in a time of 24:08.0.

“I’m pretty excited about that,” Schulz said. “It’s a really stacked field out there. It’s a lot of decorated skiers from all over, it’s pretty sweet.”

After the second day of the NCAA skiing championships, Colorado held the lead with 279.5 points, while Utah is in second with 263 and Denver is third with 230.5.

On March 8, Utah finished the day in third place overall in the team standings, but on March 9, the Utes jumped up one spot thanks to McCabe’s first-place finish in the women’s 5K freestyle classic race.

“It’s an amazing team, so to be able to do that as part of this team is pretty special for sure,” McCabe said.

McCabe finished the race in a time of 12:46.3, edging out the University of New Hampshire’s Jasmine Lyons (12:59.2) by nearly 13 seconds. Colorado’s Anna-Maria Dietze rounded out the top-three finishers in the women’s race in 13:01.6.

McCabe said the win meant a lot to her, especially since she was nervous going into the event.

“It always feels like a bit more pressure when you are trying to do well for the team, so it was a bit more stressful,” McCabe said. “I was just pretty nervous about it and being able to pull off a good one was something I’m for sure proud of.”

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