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Competing against Division I opponents for much of the season helped the University of Wyoming Nordic ski teams sweep its home Cowboy Chase last weekend at the Pole Mountain Nordic Trails.
Both the Cowboys and Cowgirls dominated the final race of the regular season, which also attracted two other teams for the Western Regional competition. UW competed against teams from the United States Air Force Academy and Colorado Mountain College. Saturday's event was a 15km skate race and Sunday's was a 7.5km classic race.
The Cowboys swept first through sixth places on the opening day. Casper sophomore John Kirlin won the race by more than a minute, beating teammates Justin Kinner, Casper sophomore; Lander senior Brian Sebade; Laramie freshman Michael Fitzgerald; Nicholai Smith, a junior from Chugiak, Alaska; and freshman Adam Kargas, from Grand Rapids, Minn. Patrick Richards, junior, Clear Creek, Colo., placed eighth, less than a minute behind Kargas.
The Cowgirls also skied well, led by Lander freshman Marie Cartwright, who edged teammate Gwynn Barrows, Laramie sophomore, by just two seconds for first place.
Lander senior Erin Hammer was followed by twin sisters, Liz and Katie Turner, juniors from Chugiak, Alaska; Karyn Liebsch, Maple Grove, Minn.; and Pinedale senior Mae Peterson rounded out the top seven. UW teammates Laramie freshman Gina Shively and Aubree Haffey, Pinedale junior, were ninth and 10th, respectively.
"It was a great day with some really solid finishes. The past few weeks of Division I racing really paid off," says Coach Christi Boggs, a UW Outreach Credit Programs assistant lecturer.
The UW men skied well again Sunday, taking the top four finishes. Sebade led the Cowboys, only seven seconds in front of Kirlin. Lander sophomore Jacob Peterson was 17 seconds back followed by Kinner in fourth, Fitzgerald sixth and Kargas in seventh.
The women also continued their dominance with a first- through sixth-place sweep. Barrows was first followed by Katie Turner, Cartwright, Liz Turner, Peterson and Shively. Haffey placed eighth and Liebsch 10th.
"It was an extremely successful weekend that concluded with eight Cowboys and six Cowgirls qualifying for the United States Collegiate Ski and Snowboard Association (USCSA) Nationals," Boggs says. USCSA Nationals are March 4-8, in Black Mountain, Maine.
Qualifiers for the UW men are Kirlin, Sebade, Peterson, Kinner, Smith, Fitzgerald, Richards and Kargas. Representing the women will be Cartwright, the Turner twins, Hammer, Peterson and Liebsch. Barrows is red-shirting this season to study abroad.
The UW women are the defending national champions, while the men are the national runners-up, finishing second by just one point to Cornell University.
"The men are a stronger and more cohesive team this season and have a real shot of getting revenge," Boggs says. The Cowboys will be challenged by St. Olaf College of Northfield, Minn., and Clarkson College in Potsdam, N.Y. Defending national champion Cornell graduated its entire men's team, Boggs adds.
"Our women have had a tough year with illness and injury, plus we lost the top four team members from last season," Boggs says. "Despite these setbacks, they have bounced back enough that they are hoping for a top three showing."
The favorite in the women's competition, the UW coach says, is UW's main rival, St. Olaf, followed by Clarkson College and the University of Maine-Presque Isle.