Rocky ski teams qualify for nationals

2013-02-23T15:45:00Z 2014-02-19T00:16:06Z Rocky ski teams qualify for nationalsGazette Staff The Billings Gazette

RED LODGE — It’s that time of year when Rocky Mountain College begins to show its supremacy in ski racing.

The Battlin’ Bear men and women once again dominated the team competition at the Western Regional Championships, which wrapped up Saturday afternoon at Red Lodge Mountain.

Rocky swept the giant slalom and slalom events in capturing both the men’s and women’s team titles — and qualified together for the United States Collegiate Ski Association national championships for a remarkable 12th consecutive season under coach Jerry Wolf.

Freshmen Nils Hoegbom and Eloise Julliand of Rocky won the slalom races Saturday on Lower Limited on the final day of the three-day meet.

Julliand triumphed by nearly five seconds after her two runs were complete, while Hoegbom led a stunning 1-2-3-4 sweep by the Rocky men.

Hoegbom and Julliand also finished first in the giant slalom races held earlier in the week.

"It was foggy, snowy and the course conditions were a little rough, but they really came through," Wolf said of his skiers. "They were determined to get the job done. It shows that no matter what they throw at us, we're able to come out on top. I couldn't be happier."

The Rocky men and women will now move on to the 35th national championships, set for March 6-9 in Sun Valley, Idaho. Rocky’s men are currently ranked No. 1 nationally by the USCSA, while the women are No. 3.

Hoegbom, who is from Sweden, was the overall winner in the slalom at 1:27.10. The 22-year-old won the first run in 41.98 and was third in the second at 45.12.

Freshman teammate Harlan Collins, from Sun Valley, Idaho, won the second run at 44.19 and placed second overall at 1:27.79.

Rocky's Anton Larsson (1:29.87) and Jonas Olofsson (1:30.16) were third and fourth, respectively, out of the 49 finishers. Arthur Loye, also from Rocky, was sixth at 1:31.12.

Olofsson and Loye are also freshmen, while Larsson is a junior All-America racer.

"That's never been done before," Wolf said of the 1-2-3-4 finish. "We've never had a sweep like that (at regionals) before."

The 19-year-old Julliand, who is from France, was the overwhelming winner for the women, clocking in at one minute, 34.91 seconds and prevailing by a wide margin over Samantha Bisnaire (1:39.75) of the University of British Columbia.

She won both runs with times of 44.72 and 50.19.

"It's incredible. Totally amazing," Wolf said of Julliand's performance. "It's pretty astonishing just looking at it. The conditions were a little softer, with a lot of bumps. It was like riding a bucking bronc, but she skied it like a champion."

Rocky senior Mimmi Palovaara was seventh out of the 45 finishers at 1:43.20. Despite combating the flu, teammate Fredrika Hjelm, a freshman from Sweden, was 11th at 1:46.35.

The times of the top three skiers for each team are used to calculate the team standings.

In qualifying for nationals for the 12th straight time, Rocky’s skiers also tied a school record for consecutive national appearances. The school’s women’s golf team also went to nationals 12 straight years from 1999-2010.

"It's always exciting to make your mark and go down in history," Wolf said. "If we keep on doing what we're doing, we'll keep on breaking records."

For the Rocky men, this was their seventh regional title in the past nine years. Rocky’s women claimed their fourth crown since 2007.

The regional racing featured skiers from 14 schools in the USCSA’s Grand Teton, Pacific Northwest and Rocky Mountain Conferences. The competition was held at Red Lodge Mountain for the first time since 2007.

The top four schools in the final combined (GS and slalom) standings earned berths to nationals.

"I think it's a real confidence booster for both the men and the women," Wolf said of the regional titles. "It shows they can get it done. We're skiing well, skiing fast and seem to be peaking at just the right time. We're excited about it."

Rocky’s men finished second at nationals last year in Maine, while the women were sixth.

The Rocky men won the most recent of their three national championships in 2011 in Sun Valley. The Rocky women placed second nationally that year, which tied for their highest finish ever.

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