Rocky honors its ski-racing national champions

2014-03-20T00:15:00Z 2014-03-20T00:37:09Z Rocky honors its ski-racing national championsBy BILL BIGHAUS bbighaus@billingsgazette.com The Billings Gazette

With the Rocky Mountain College alpine ski-racing team competing and practicing on slopes far away from campus, few people get a chance to cheer for them.

That changed on Wednesday afternoon.

Students, faculty and members of the community gathered in the school’s Fortin Center to salute the Battlin’ Bears for winning their first women’s national team title, and for also sweeping the men’s and women’s individual races at last week’s United States Collegiate Ski Association championships in Lake Placid, N.Y.

“This is what we went there for,” 13-year head coach Jerry Wolf said, while holding the women’s national championship trophy aloft to loud applause. “We worked really hard for this.”

Rocky’s women beat reigning champion Sierra Nevada College in a dramatic double tie-breaker for the crown. It took nearly two hours to calculate the results and announce a winner.

“We were waiting with excitement after the slalom,” freshman Frida Svedberg of Sweden said. “I’ve never been so happy. It’s especially more fun when you have a team around you. It was a nervous moment, but now we are just so happy.

“I’m so proud of the girls. I’m so proud of all of us as a team.”

It was Svedberg’s individual titles in the giant slalom and slalom that eventually helped put the women over the top. She won her last six races of the season and had a school-record 14 victories overall.

“All the credit goes to the girls,” said Erik Hogbom, a freshman national champion in the slalom for the Rocky men. “They saved the trip for us by winning their first national championship. It was great.”

Rocky’s men, who placed sixth this year, have claimed three national titles since 2005, but the women’s championship was a first in the 27-year history of the school’s ski-racing program.

The women had finished second on four occasions, including last year, and the 51-year-old Wolf said the women have been unfairly overshadowed in the past by the accomplishments of the men.

“Ladies, I couldn’t be happier that it was the women and not the men this year,” Wolf said, prompting more cheering. “The ladies will never be second fiddle again.”

The six women and seven men on the ski team were applauded as they marched to a stage decorated with green and gold balloons.

Rocky athletic director Robert Beers, wearing an honorary ski jersey, mentioned the skiers’ accomplishments at nationals, but also singled out the nine men and women who received academic All-America recognition from the USCSA.

“The team GPA is well over a 3.4,” Beers said. “That is impressive.”

“This is excellence,” said Rocky president Robert Wilmouth in praising the skiers. “This is on the slopes and off the slopes. You can’t get any better than that.

“Congratulations, and keep doing what you’re doing.”

Following the 25-minute ceremony, the Rocky women autographed sweat shirts and T-shirts for fans.

“We’re really good friends, we’re very tight, all of us,” sophomore Fredrika Hjelm of Sweden said of the team’s winning formula. “Whatever we do, we always push each other. We always help each other out.”

Svedberg and sophomore Eloise Julliand of France finished 1-2 in the women’s combined results at nationals.

Besides Svedberg’s firsts, Julliand, who became Rocky’s first-ever female national champion last year, was second in the GS and fourth in the slalom.

“This team is really amazing this year,” said Julliand. “I’m just very happy. I’m really proud of all the work we did. We stepped it up this year with everything, not only the team, but even the spirit of the team.”

Hjelm wound up fifth in the combined.

“They won it the old-fashioned way,” Wolf said of his women. “Showing up, hard work, putting in all the time and effort in order to get this championship ... It paid off. Awesome, ladies.”

Rocky brothers Erik (slalom) and Nils Hogbom (GS) of Sweden were also crowned national champions. Teammate Harlan Collins was third in the combined.

The women’s team, which also included McKenna Lowe, Mallory Kelley and Malin Eriksson, consists of three freshmen and three sophomores.

“I believe they’re all coming back, as far as I know,” said Wolf, who was assisted by his son, Jeremy, and daughter, Jessica, this season. “So we’re looking forward to some more good times ahead.”

Copyright 2014 The Billings Gazette. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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