MCCALL, Idaho — When it comes to ski racing, nobody can get to the bottom of the mountain faster than a Rocky Mountain College skier.
Sophomore Nils Hogbom was the fastest man and freshman Frida Svedberg was the fastest woman in the slalom on Saturday as the Battlin’ Bears easily defended their team titles at the Western Regional Championships on Brundage Mountain.
That means the Rocky men and women are now headed to the 36th annual United States Collegiate Ski Association national championships for the 13th consecutive season. This year’s competition will take place during the week of March 10 in Lake Placid, N.Y.
Rocky’s men’s team is ranked No. 1 in the USCSA, while the women are No. 3.
“The team is clicking pretty well,” Rocky coach Jerry Wolf said. “There’s good things to come.”
The Bears’ men and women swept both the giant slalom and slalom races at the three-day regional meet, which included 18 men’s teams and 17 women’s squads.
The racing featured skiers from the USCSA’s Grand Teton, Pacific Northwest and Rocky Mountain conferences.
For the Rocky men, this was their eighth regional championship in the past 10 years. Rocky’s women collected their fifth title since 2007.
“The depth and the consistency of the skiing is better than it has been in the past,” Wolf said of the strength of his latest teams. “It could be one of my best teams, on both sides.”
Svedberg, who is from Sweden, led a 1-2-3 Rocky finish in the slalom on Alpine Run. Sophomores Eloise Julliand of France and Fredrika Hjelm of Sweden were second and third.
“That was amazing, because there’s some good girls out there,” Wolf said of the sweep. “To have them all step up like that, that’s what has to happen back east (at nationals).”
In defending his regional crown in the slalom, Hogbom, who is also from Sweden, finished ahead of teammate Harlan Collins, who is a sophomore from Sun Valley, Idaho.
The Bears took care of business even after giant slalom champion Erik Hogbom “hooked a tip and didn’t finish” during the first run, Wolf said.
Svedberg, who has a school-record 10 wins to her credit this winter, won both runs of the slalom. Her combined time of one minute, 28.06 seconds was
more than four seconds faster than the rest of the field.
“She just works hard,” Wolf said. “She doesn’t let it go to her head. It’s a pretty special team I’ve got going.”
Julliand was second at 1:32.31, followed by Hjelm at 1:34.24.
Rocky freshman Mallory Kelley of Red Lodge was 11th out of 54 finishers are 1:37.99.
Rocky won the slalom team title over the University of British Columbia.
The times of the top three skiers for each team are used to calculate the team standings.
Svedberg also won the women’s GS on Thursday.
In the men’s slalom, Nils Hogbom placed first in the morning run and was second to teammate Collins in the afternoon.
“The conditions haven’t been ideal,” Wolf said of dealing with the fresh snow and fog. “But they’ve been able to get through it. I’m pretty proud of them.”
Hogbom’s overall clocking of 1:32.26 was nearly two seconds faster than Collins’ 1:34.13.
Rocky’s Thomas Vandel, a freshman from France, was fifth at 1:36.31. Teammate Andrija Vukovic, a freshman from Serbia, was eighth at 1:36.89.
Travis Ahmann, a Rocky freshman from Marysville, Wash., was 10th at 1:37.11.
With five skiers in the top 10, the Bears were well in front of runner-up Montana State in the team standings.
Wolf has now qualified 13 straight teams, men and women, to nationals. That breaks the school record for consecutive national appearances the skiers shared with the Rocky women’s golf team.
The golfers went to nationals 12 straight years from 1999-2010.
Rocky’s men and women skiers both finished second to Sierra Nevada College at last year’s national championships in Sun Valley, Idaho.
“We’re skiing well, we’re focused and we want to win,” Wolf said of going for the national titles. “It would be disappointing to come up short.”
Besides Rocky, the University of British Columbia and College of Idaho qualified for nationals for the women. The British Columbia and Colorado Mesa men also advanced.