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Rocky Mountain College ski racers Eloise Julliand and Nils Hoegb

Rocky Mountain College rs Eloise Julliand and Nils Hoegbom are both national champions as freshman at the college.

After a history-making spring break spent racing down the steep slopes of Bald Mountain in Sun Valley, Idaho, freshmen skiers Nils Hogbom and Eloise Julliand are being hailed this week as national champions on the Rocky Mountain College campus.

"I think it's been very positive," the 22-year-old Hogbom said of the reception. "Everyone is coming up and congratulating us. The school has been very supportive. A lot of people are interested, too. That's fun."

Hogbom, who is from Ostersund, Sweden, won three individual titles at the United States Collegiate Ski Association national championships. The 19-year-old Julliand, who is from Tignes, France, won two, and became the first Rocky female to ever capture a national crown.

"I was very surprised, because a lot of people were aware of what happened," said Julliand, Rocky's youngest skier, who is also being toasted by fellow students and teachers.

"I received some emails from people that I don't even know," she said. "I was very happy that people were interested in us as a team."

Rocky's men and women both finished a close second behind reigning champion Sierra Nevada College in the final alpine team results, but the Battlin' Bears enjoyed their biggest haul of individual accolades in the 26-year history of the ski-racing program.

Among the highlights, the 6-foot-2, 182-pound Hogbom survived a wild second run in near whiteout conditions to win the giant slalom.

"When I got down to the finish and almost fell, I was like, oh no, there goes the title," he recalled. "Somehow I managed to put a little bit more entertainment in the race."

Hogbom followed a few days later with a dominating performance in the slalom. The two wins also made him the USCSA's combined champion.

"I'm really happy with the results, especially since I was injured for some weeks during the middle of the season," he said. "I had solid runs and didn't try to overachieve or anything like that. It was just good skiing."

Julliand was third in the GS, but dashed off with the slalom title a couple days later and also claimed the women's combined championship.

"I just gave everything I had and I was very, very surprised to win," she said. "I didn't think I could do that, but it was a really, really good surprise and I am very proud to represent Rocky."

On their way to the top of the podiums, both Hogbom and Julliand had to overcome challenges. Hogbom's was an ankle injury suffered earlier in the season, while Julliand was dealing with homesickness.

"The fact that people are really welcoming here" helped to ease that, she said. "And once the ski season started, I felt so much better."

Rocky's men, who have claimed three national team titles since 2005, had won just two GS or slalom individual titles at nationals prior to last week. The Bears had never had a skier sweep both events.

Hogbom, who has been ski racing since age six, said he has competed for individual championships before, but last week's now rank as his biggest victories.

"I think it was greater for me to accomplish this here since I am both competing for myself and for the school," he said. "I think it makes it a whole lot bigger with everything combined."

Julliand, who has also been racing since age six, also couldn't think of a sweeter triumph.

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"I think it was the best victory that I had," she said. "It's the one that counts the most for me."

And, as Rocky's first female champion, carried plenty of historical significance.

"I knew they had good girls before. I didn't know how good I was compared to them," Julliand said. "When I won the slalom, so many people sent me a text or came to see me and said, 'Eloise, you're the first woman to win. You made history.'

"I didn't really realize it, but I was so happy and I'm glad I did it for the school ... and they won't forget me."

Julliand said she wished she could have shared the moment with her family, but her dad and mom (Christian and Christine) were actually able to watch her races live online in France.

"It was nighttime for them, but they just stayed awake," she said.

Since the beginning of the season, Rocky had looked to Hogbom to fill the void left by graduating senior Olle Friberg, who won the combined title at nationals in 2011 and the slalom in 2012.

"I know Olle really well, too," Hogbom said. "We're from basically the same place in Sweden. Our ski clubs are neighbors, so it's really nice to fill up his big shoes."

Both Hogbom and Julliand -- who accounted for 13 wins this winter -- plan to be back at Rocky next year.

"My plan is to definitely come back and ski for Rocky," Hogbom said. "I have a lot of fun here, and I'm happy with my education program right now."

"I really like the ski season here," Julliand said. "I really like the way it happens. It's less pressure than what I'm used to in France."

While Hogbom made a clean sweep of the individual honors, he said there's still plenty to ski for in the future.

"I guess the biggest motivating factor is the national champion team," he said. "It was so close this year. I know that a lot of Sierra Nevada guys are graduating this spring, so hopefully it will give us an opportunity next year to get back there and win the whole thing."

"I really want to win it as a team," Julliand added. "I won six races this year. I want to win seven next year."

 

 

 

 

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