Rocky women win first national ski championship

2014-03-14T17:45:00Z 2014-03-15T00:36:09Z Rocky women win first national ski championshipGazette Staff The Billings Gazette
March 14, 2014 5:45 pm  • 

LAKE PLACID, N.Y. -- Rocky Mountain College rode the blazing skis of freshman Frida Svedberg on Friday afternoon to its first United States Collegiate Ski Association women's national team championship.

Svedberg completed a sweep of the individual titles by winning the slalom on Whiteface Mountain, and the Battlin' Bears then had to wait nearly two hours to see if they edged out reigning champion Sierra Nevada College on a double tie-breaker before celebrating their first national title in the program's 27-year history.

"We were going crazy," 13-year Rocky coach Jerry Wolf said of his team's reaction to winning. "That's what we came here for."

The Rocky women had placed second on four occasions at nationals in the past, including last year at Sun Valley, Idaho.

"We've been close, but actually getting it done is another story," Wolf said. "In the past, something didn't click or something didn't happen. For it to all come together, that's so awesome.

"Their want for a national championship was not going to be denied."

On the men's side, another Rocky freshman, Erik Hogbom, won the slalom with a clocking of 1:35.67 for his two runs. His sophomore brother, Nils, a national champion last year, won the first run, but hooked a tip on a gate in the second and didn't finish.

While it was a roller-coaster ride at nationals for the top-ranked Rocky men, who were seeking their fourth USCSA title, it was a remarkable week for the third-ranked women in topping the 18-school field.

"Our girls, I'll tell you what, they all came through," Wolf said. "It was a huge goal."

The Rocky team, men and women, planned to celebrate on Friday night by attending the USCSA ski-jumping event and a barbecue.

Svedberg, a 21-year-old from Sweden, won both runs of the slalom on Friday, finishing with a combined time of 1:36.50 on the hard, packed surface.

That was almost two seconds faster than SNC's Stina Sollander, who was clocked at 1:38.89.

Rocky's defending national slalom champion Eloise Julliand survived a scary second run -- where the sophomore momentarily veered off course -- to place fourth out of 71 finishers at 1:40.48.

Sophomore teammate Fredrika Hjelm was eighth at 1:44.07.

SNC, however, placed its top three skiers in the second, third and fifth spots to win the team title in the slalom by a narrow 300.23-301.05 margin over Rocky, which had won the giant slalom earlier in the week.

That left the two teams tied in team points (3) and individual place points (25) in determining the overall team champion.

Rocky eventually won out on race points (124.78-147.26), which takes into consideration how far each team's skiers finished behind the first-place finisher in the GS and slalom.

That's also where Svedberg's winning performance in both events helped put Rocky over the top.

In particular, Wolf said the focused Svedberg went all out in her second slalom run on Friday to win by as much as possible. She was looking to help the Bears win the slalom, or, at the very least, assist Rocky in any tie-breaking procedures.

"That's a lot of pressure for a freshman -- or anybody -- in that situation," Wolf said. "She didn't coast in for the win. She went for the team win. She got it done. It was pretty amazing."

Svedberg, who won the GS on Tuesday, also earned a national crown in the combined. She is the first Rocky woman to accomplish that feat.

Sierra Nevada College, with three skiers in the top six in the slalom, repeated as national champion for the men. SNC is from Incline Village, Nev.

The Bears wound up sixth overall out of 19 schools.

Rocky's men fell out of title contention with a tough first run in in the GS and placing 14th on Wednesday. The Bears, however, did win the slalom, 292.82-292.94, over SNC.

Erik Hogbom, a 21-year-old from Sweden, was second in the first run at 49.52 and third in the second at 46.15.

"I'm pretty proud of him," Wolf said. "To come back from a disappointing GS and win, that's awesome."

Rocky's Harlan Collins was fifth at 1:38.50 and teammate Andrija Vukovic was eighth at 1:38.65 out of 67 finishers.

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