Athletics & Recreation / Magazine Feature

Skiers win 19th NCAA Championship

Pioneers men’s skier John Buchar won the men’s slalom for his second individual national title, helping the Pioneers claim their 19th team title at the NCAA Championships in Bridger Bowl, Mont., March 8.

“I could not be more proud of this team,” alpine head coach Andy LeRoy says. “All of our athletes worked hard all year toward the goal of winning an NCAA Championship, and they all skied their best when it counted.”

Buchar’s sweep of the slalom and giant slalom marked just the second time that a DU skier had won both events at the NCAA Championships. Adam Cole won both events last year, but missed this season after breaking his left leg during the first run of the year.

“The only thing that mattered for me was that we won as a team,” Buchar says. “That is even better than both of my wins. Everything was a team effort. We had a rough season with a lot of injuries and a lot of people didn’t think we had the best team.”

After entering the day trailing Colorado by 17.5 points, Denver overtook the Buffaloes and won with 649.5 points. CU finished second with 619 points, followed by Utah (550), defending national champion Dartmouth (546) and Middlebury (529). DU’s win marked the first time in 13 years that a team had overcome a point deficit to win the title.

Denver’s 19 team championships in skiing are the most in NCAA history, ahead of Colorado’s16 and Utah’s 10. This also marked the Pioneers’ fifth championship since 2000. DU also won in 2000, ’01, ’02 and ’05.

The Pioneers dominated the men’s race with Buchar in first, Seppi Stiegler in second and Francesco Ghedina in eighth for 109 points, 29 better than Middlebury in second place.

On the women’s side, Jenny Lathrop found the podium with a third-place finish after coming in fourth in the Giant Slalom on March 6. Molly Ryan was 18th, and Karine Falck-Pedersen finished 24th, as the women scored 75 points for fourth place. CU and Utah split the race with 97 points, and New Hampshire was third with 85 points.

Antje Maempel, Annelise Bailly and Rene Reisshauer joined Buchar, Steigler, Ghedina and Lathrop as First Team All-Americans. Ryan and John Stene earned Second Team All-American honors.

LeRoy, who is in his second year as DU’s director of skiing operations and alpine head coach, credited his predecessor for building the foundation to this year’s title.

“You know, this is still the team that Kurt Smitz built,” LeRoy says. “Almost all of these kids were recruited by him. It’s still in his court; I just drive the van. I’m lucky he left the team in such good shape.”

The Pioneers have won 26 NCAA team titles, 19 in skiing and seven in hockey.

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