Athletics & Recreation / Magazine Feature

DU skiers work to remain on top of collegiate skiing

Even though the DU ski team won its 20th national championship last season, head coach Andy LeRoy keeps pushing his skiers to get better. Why? It seems complacency is the enemy of supremacy in the NCAA skiing world.

“We have been at the top for a while, and that has given other teams a very specific level to shoot for,” Leroy says. “If we’re not constantly improving, we are going to get caught.”

Any team trying to catch DU in terms of skiing success faces an uphill battle. Last season’s national title was not only DU’s 20th overall — which ranks as the fifth most national titles won by any team in any sport — but it also was the team’s second straight and sixth this decade.

Key to success this year, LeRoy says, is overcoming the loss of several key contributors who graduated and working as a team.

“Everyone has been competing for individual glory,” LeRoy says. “But college skiing is a reflection of everyone coming together and a group becoming a team.”

LeRoy says many DU skiers have aspirations of continuing the sport after college, and they have been working around the world and on their own budgets to improve their skills. Many of the athletes spent the summer training in New Zealand and Europe in hopes of making their respective national teams and competing in the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, B.C.

One DU skier already has begun his national career. Coming off one of the most successful freshmen seasons in DU history, alpine skier and team captain Leif Haugen competed in the World Cup for the Norwegian national team in Soelden, Austria, this winter.

“Haugen is skiing at a level that is rare for the college circuit,” Leroy says. “The season he is having has really opened people’s eyes to what DU athletes are capable of. It’s very impressive.”

LeRoy says Haugen has a good chance of competing in the 2010 Olympics for Norway but is also committed to returning to Denver and trying to lead DU to another NCAA title.

The season will begin Jan. 11–12 in Park City, Utah, for the Utah Invitational and will conclude with the NCAA Championships March 10–13 in Steamboat Springs, Colo.

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