Athletics & Recreation / Magazine Feature

DU wins 21st NCAA skiing national championship

DU's Antje Maempel celebrates victory at the 2010 NCAA national championship meet in Steamboat Springs, Colo. Maempel's performance helped DU win its 21st national championship in skiing

University of Denver junior Nordic skier Antje Maempel won the women’s 15K freestyle on Saturday, completing the Nordic sweep for the second-straight year, as the Pioneers won their record 21st overall and third-straight NCAA Championship.

Maempel became just the second women’s skier in NCAA history to win both the classical and freestyle individual championships in two consecutive seasons. 

After entering Saturday’s races with a 54.5-point lead, the DU men’s Nordic team held the lead and the women’s Nordic team blew the gap open, winning by 70.5 points with a four-day total of 785.5 points. Colorado finished second and New Mexico finished third. Utah and Dartmouth rounded out the top five.

“This was a remarkable performance by all 12 athletes,” alpine head coach Andy LeRoy said. “When the first day ended, the rest of the field didn’t know what hit them. The University of Denver basically lapped the field and opened up a margin that wouldn’t be challenged the rest of the week.”

Maempel was trailing Colorado’s Alexa Turzian much of the race, but Maempel turned it on during the final flat section and outkicked Turzian to the finish, winning in 41:03 to Turzian’s 41:09. It also marked Maempel’s ninth win in a dozen races this season, and she ends the year never finishing worse than second.

Freshman Mari Elden skied to All-America second team honors, finishing seventh in 42:36 after earning first team honors in classical on Thursday. Sophomore Kate Dolan  was 11th in 43:08, just missing the top-10 by 3.9 seconds.

“Antje was the best skier in the nation all year, and she continued that with a great performance today,” Nordic head coach David Stewart said of DU’s three-peat. “Mari and Kate were also outstanding in both races.”

Senior Harald Loevenskiold earned All-America first team honors in the men’s 20K freestyle with a fourth-place finish in 49:26, missing the podium by 2.5 seconds. Freshman Andrew Dougherty was 18th at 50:02, and freshman Kristian Soerlund was 21st in 50:34. 

“The first championship was amazing, the last one was surprising, and this one leaves me speechless,” Stewart said of DU’s three-peat. “These athletes came through in every event during the four most important days of the season.”

Denver ran away with the title, becoming the first team since 2002 to lead the NCAA championships from start to finish, which has occurred only four times since 1993 and three of those were by the Pioneers. DU opened up the NCAA championship by winning both the men’s and women’s giant slalom on Mount Werner at Steamboat Ski Resort on Wednesday, and carried the momentum across town to Howelsen Hill for the remaining three days.

“We knew that if alpine was going to make a statement, it had to be the first day, because trying to do it on Howelsen Hill on Friday was too difficult,” LeRoy said.

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