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It was a rough outing Wednesday for both the University of Wyoming Nordic club teams at the 34th annual United States Collegiate Ski Association (USCSA) championships in Bethel, Maine.
But the good news is both teams remain in the top three in the overall team chase.
Both the Cowboys and Cowgirls placed third in the second race -- the 8.5 km skate race -- of the week. The UW teams both currently sit in third place after two races. The UW teams have two more races later in the week to try and regain the top positions.
UW has become a dynasty on the USCSA stage, where the Cowgirls were national champions in 2003, 2004, 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010; and the national runner-up in 2005 and 2006. The Cowboys were national champions in 2006, 2009, and 2010; and the national runner-up in 2003, 2005 and 2007.
"We had some good and some bad things happen to us today," says UW co-Coach Rachel Watson.
The good -- the UW men's second-place performance in the race and the women's third-place showing that kept them in contention.
The bad -- both happened to the UW coaching staff. Co-head Coach Christi Boggs ran into a tree out on the course earlier in morning and received a black eye; and Watson said her error in getting her top three team members ready cost the Cowgirls a higher finish.
"Despite the coaching, the teams did very well overall," she jokingly says.
The Cowboys skied to second place in the 8.5km race, finishing behind St. Olaf (Northfield, Minn.). Clarkson University (Potsdam, N.Y.) placed third; Cornell (Ithaca, N.Y.) took fourth; and Paul Smith's College (Paul Smith, N.Y.) came in fifth.
Individually, Adam Looney, a senior from Anchorage, Alaska, had the highest finish for the Pokes, crossing the finish line fifth overall. Junior Kyle Bochanski of Fairfax, Vt., placed 11th and teammate Nathan Hough, a Casper sophomore, was one place back in 12th.
Watson says it was a close race with just 20 seconds separating Looney and Hough, with the rest of the field in between.
After two races, St. Olaf leads the overall team standings with 41 points, followed by Clarkson University with 45 and UW within striking distance with 55.
"It's going to be really tight the rest of the way for the top three teams," Watson says.
The Cowgirls are 15 points out of first place in the women's competition. Clarkson University heads the pack with a team-low 25 points, followed by St. Olaf's 32 and the UW team's 40.
St. Olaf took Wednesday's race. Clarkson University was the runner-up and UW placed third. Colorado Mesa College (Grand Junction, Colo.) and Whitman College (Walla Walla, Wash.) finished fourth and fifth, respectively.
Watson said the Cowgirls had an opportunity to place higher, but she said a "coaching mistake" cost top skier Sierra Jech a better finish. Watson was applying a fresh coat of wax on the Cody sophomore's skis when she missed the start of Jech's race.
That put Jech, who won the previous day's race, at a disadvantage. However, she skied well enough to catch some of the pack and finished ninth overall.
"If I hadn't made that mistake, I know she would have placed in the top three," Watson says.
Bridget Weiner, a Casper sophomore, finished two places ahead of her teammate for the Cowgirls' best showing. Sophomore Sarah Dixson, a sophomore from Steamboat Springs, Colo., placed among the top 16 finalists, taking 13th.
By placing among the top 10 in their respective divisions Looney, Weiner and Jech earned All-American honors.
Competitors have Thursday off before Friday's mass start competition, which Watson calls UW's best race. The team relay race wraps up the national championships Saturday.