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Both the University of Wyoming women's and men's Nordic ski teams put together several qualifying times during the final NCAA Division I race last weekend.
The Cowgirls and Cowboys competed for the first time at the University of New Mexico Invitational held near Red River, N.M., at Enchanted Forest Nordic Center.
"We have never done this race before and decided to add it to our schedule due to the fact that in the past we start to ski faster about the time we stop doing the really competitive races," says Coach Christi Boggs, a UW Outreach Credit Programs assistant lecturer. "We changed our home race date so we could compete in this one and it really paid off. Almost every UW athlete that raced had their best percentage points for the season."
She adds that the competition will prepare her teams for the United States Collegiate Ski and Snowboard Association Nationals (USCSA), Division II's season-ending competition, next month at the Sunday River Resort in Maine.
Last week's competition began with a 10km classic for the men and 5km classic for the women.
Boggs says the Cowgirls had their best classic race of the season with three team members reaching the qualification mark of sub-30 percent. UW athletes who are within 30 percent of the winners at an NCAA race automatically qualify for the USCSA Nationals.
Laramie sophomore Gwynn Barrows finished in the top 24 percentile, Liz Turner, junior from Chugiak, Alaska, 25 percent, and Lander freshman Marie Cartwright, 27 percent. Turner and Cartwright placed for the first time in the top 30 percent in a classic race.
Lander senior Erin Hammer also improved to a 30 percent finish and junior Katie Turner, from Chugiak, Alaska, finished at 31 percent. Barrows, Liz Turner and Cartwright all had their best placing of the season finishing 30th, 32nd and 33rd, respectively.
The UW men also had a solid day led by Lander senior Brian Sebade, who bettered his percentage standing by 6 points to 18 percent. Jacob Peterson, Lander sophomore, also skied a sub-20 percent race finishing just 15 seconds behind Sebade and hitting 19 percent for the day. Nicholai Smith, a junior from Chugiak, Alaska, broke the qualifying mark at 29 percent.
"The men are really starting to look strong and ski like we know they can," Boggs says. "The improvements this week are what we had hoped for."
The next day, a 5km skate race was held for all athletes, with the men starting the day. Casper sophomore John Kirlin, who was unable to race Friday, led the Cowboys with an 18 percent placing 34th. Peterson once again finished second for the team with 22 percent; Sebade had his best skate race of the season with 24 percent; and Smith finished at 35 percent.
"This was the strongest showing of the season in a skate race by the men and is encouraging with nationals only three weeks away," Boggs adds.
The women competed next and continued their run of good skate races for the season.
Barrows tied her best race of the year with another 30th place finish and received her best percentage at 22. Just 20 seconds behind in 32nd place and 24 percent was Cartwright, who edged Liz Turner in 33rd place by only two seconds, also at 24 percent.
"This is the type of pack skiing that really helps team placing at USCSA Nationals. It was exciting to see our women that close," Boggs says. "As difficult as these NCAA races are, the UW athletes have been amazing. They go out there and compete and ski very well."
She adds that the team now is looking toward moving on to Division II competition at the club's home race this weekend. The Cowboy Chase is Saturday and Sunday at Tie Siding.
The UW Nordic club also will have a benefit dinner/drawing beginning at 6 p.m. at Laramie Junior High School. For more information visit the team's Web site at: www.uwyo.edu/ski.