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Published March 13, 2020
Members of the University of Wyoming women’s Nordic ski team will never know if they had one more race left in them to win a national title.
The United States Collegiate Ski and Snowboard Association (USCSSA) championships in Lake Placid, N.Y., were shortened by one day Friday because of the novel coronavirus COVID-19. The abbreviated schedule -- with the cancellation of Saturday’s final team sprint race -- follows the national trend of halting/eliminating public events in response to concerns about the novel coronavirus.
The Cowgirls competed in the final 15km race of the week Friday, placing second to eventual national champion Castleton (Vt.) University, leaving UW second in the overall standings through the shortened three-event national championships.
On Thursday, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued an order restricting public gatherings of more than 500 people effective 5 p.m. Friday, March 13. USCSA officials noted that “after careful consideration, as well as new guidance issued by the State of New York and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it is in the best interest of our athletes, fans and coaches to cancel all Saturday, March 14, events at the 2020 U.S. Collegiate Ski and Snowboard National Championships.”
Castleton was declared the USCSSA Division II national champion with 59 overall team points, while the Cowgirls accumulated 66 through three events. The University of Minnesota placed third with 112 points, and St. Olaf (Northfield, Minn.) College was fourth with 130. Castleton won the final race with a team-low 18 points, while the Cowgirls scored 21.
The Cowgirls were seeking their seventh national title and first since 2014. This year’s runner-up trophy was the UW women’s fourth during the leadership of co-head Coaches Christi Boggs and Rachel Watson.
“We had a very good day today, but we were hoping the women were able to compete in the team sprint on Saturday, their best event,” Boggs says. “Despite that, we had a great day.”
As she has done all season, Laramie graduate student Ella DeWolf led the Cowgirls with her second individual runner-up finish in Friday’s 15km classic sprint, and she was third overall in individual points. Teammate Kat Gruner, a Casper sophomore, finished in the top 10 in her final race, placing sixth and fourth overall in individual points.
Maddy Tinker, a Casper sophomore, was 13th on the day and finished in that same positon overall. Finishing out the top 20 was Michaela Forty, a Westford, Mass., freshman, who was 20th after closing out her final race in 14th place.
“They all were amazing to place second on the day, just three points behind Castleton. The goal at the beginning of the week was to be close enough to Castleton to win the championship with the team sprint,” Boggs says. “They did their job being only seven points behind. Relay places are worth nine points, so it was an incredible day of skiing in the pouring rain and 45 mph wind gusts. It was truly insane, but we are extremely happy and lucky we got three races done.”
The UW men were fifth on the day and dropped to fifth place overall in the final standings. Castleton made it a sweep, taking the men’s title with 70 points, followed by St. Olaf with 101 points; Minnesota scored 110; Clarkson (Pottsdam, N.Y.) was fourth with 116 points; and the Pokes scored 120.
It was the third straight year that the UW men finished fifth at the national meet. Going into Friday’s final race, the Pokes were sitting fourth, just a handful of points behind the second- and third-place teams.
Clarkson won the final race with 26 points, one better than St. Olaf. The Pokes scored 44 points on the day.
Boggs says the UW men also skied well on the day, with Lander sophomore Silas Goetz placing 10th. The Cowboys also placed two other team members in the top 20. Nathan Kessler, a Buffalo freshman, and Matt Williams, of Jackson, were 14th and 20th, respectively.
“It was an incredible men’s field where, after three races, there were four teams within 19 points and three within 10,” Boggs says. “Our UW men skied strong today. We believe they also had a good chance of moving up had we competed in the last event.”
Boggs adds that she and Watson were pleased with both teams’ efforts throughout the week.
“On the whole, it was an incredible week of skiing by all the UW athletes,” she says. “They skied through conditions that were beyond imagining for a ski race and did it with grit and courage.”