BRIAN JENKINS, Burlington Free Press
March 10, 2011

Starksboro's Tim Kelley got hung up on a gate and finished 22nd in Wednesday's giant slalom, part of a rocky first day for the University of Vermont at the NCAA Skiing Championships in Stowe. UVM ended the day in fourth place, 58.5 points behind leader Colorado.

STOWE - After a few tense moments watching the clock, Kevin Drury got to enjoy the view from the podium.

The University of Vermont sophomore's combined time of 2 minutes, 2.69 seconds stood up to earn him second place in the giant slalom race at the NCAA Skiing Championships at Stowe Mountain Resort on Wednesday, highlighting an otherwise lukewarm day for the host Catamounts.

I can't even describe how this feels just fantastic, said Drury, whose time of 1:01.74 in the first round was the third-fastest in the field. The course was really bumpy up at the top, so I just tried to ski smart.

Bumpy was an apt description for the top-ranked Cats showing on Day 1 of the NCAAs. UVM stood in fourth place in the team standings with 349.5 points through the first two events of the championships; Colorado sat atop the team standings with 408 points, followed by Dartmouth (362) and Utah (353.5). Competition resumes Friday at Trapp Family Lodge.

The Big Green upstaged the Catamounts as the Beasts of the East by taking first, fourth and fifth places in the men's Nordic freestyle race that kicked off Wednesday's competition.

It was a good day for me, and a great day for the Big Green, said Dartmouth sophomore Sam Tarling, who landed atop the podium in the 10-kilometer Nordic race to kick-start his team's memorable day.

Clocking the field

While the other top skiers in the men's GS were keeping one eye on the leader board, Denver's Seppi Stiegler chose to keep his focus on the course. The Pioneer senior captured his first national championship with twin blurs down the Spruce Mountain course that added up to a total time of 2:01.90.

Once you cross the finish line, you've already done all the hard work, said Stiegler, a Wyoming native. Halfway through the course, that's when you should be nervous.

Utah's Ryan Wilson had the fastest time (1:01.28) in the first round of competition but bogged down just enough on his second run to leave the door open for Stiegler and Drury. Wilson settled for third place with a total time of 2:02.95.

One of those skiers with his attention riveted on the leaderboard was Chris Acosta of New Mexico, whose 1:00.57 second run propelled him into the top slot until Middlebury's Robert Cone (fourth, 2:03.08) knocked him out three skiers later. Utah's Torjus Krogdahl (seventh, 2:03.50) turned in the single fastest run of the day, 1:00.33, in the second round.

Catamount Tim Kelley was just over two seconds off the lead heading into the second tun but got hung up on a gate near the bottom of the course and settled for 22nd place in 2:05.67.

I was trying to carry my speed into the flats, and I caught a rut weird, Kelley said. It happens sometimes.

The worst of such luck was experienced by UVM's Jonathan Nordbotten, the team's strongest GS performer. The Norwegian lost a ski early in his first run yet managed to complete the course on one leg. Remarkably, his time was still within nine seconds of the winning pace but he was disqualified under NCAA regulations that allow only two gates to be cleared on one ski within a run.

I'm really upset, not for myself but because it brings the whole team down, Nordbotten said. If it was a single race, it wouldn't be such a big deal but here, you need to finish three guys to compete as a team.

Drury is confident that the Cats are still in the hunt for a national team title, with their best yet to come in upcoming events at the NCAAs.

Friday and Saturday, we are going to show everybody why we're ranked No. 1, Drury said.

'Attack from the back'

In the women's race, Ida Dillingoen proved that a skier with nothing to lose can be in a perfect position to win it all.

The junior from Denver University found herself mired in 11th place after the first run Wednesday but came back with a blistering second run to seize her first national title. Dillingoen's 1:02.83 on her second shot through the course brought her total time to 2:05.98, nearly a half-second faster than runner-up Sara Hjertman of Colorado (2:06.51).

While Colorado flexed its muscles behind Hjertman and fifth-place finisher Erika Ghent (2:06.97), Vermont also made its presence felt. Catamount freshman Kate Ryley made the most of her nationals debut with two solid runs that left her in fourth place with a total time of 2:06.95.

Ryley said that being a little green might have been the perfect color for her at the NCAAs.

I like having no expectations, because once you start setting the bar, it gets a little bit harder to reach it, the Toronto native said. When I was in the starting gate, it just felt like another training day a really intense one.

On the other end of the experience spectrum was UVM senior Lyndee Janowiak, competing in her fourth NCAA meet. The Michigan product came into her final NCAAs with high hopes she called this year's UVM squad the strongest team she's ever been on and wasn't disappointed after placing seventh with a total time of 2:07.14.

Janowiak's 1:02.92 first run put her right in the hunt with the top skiers on the hill, after which she tried to tune out her competitors and just focus on the course.

The think the key is to just race your own race, Janowiak said. It's really just you and the timer; what everybody else does on the hill doesn't change your run. After the first run it was still anyone's race, so I just came out charging.

Janowiak added that the NCAA championship rules for the GS three skiers per team, rather than the six that are allowed at carnivals during the season was unfortunate given the caliber of this year's Catamount squad.

It's kind of a shame that not everyone gets to race, Janowiak said. We have six girls, and any one of them can be the fastest on any given day. That's a pretty special thing to have on a team.

Six girls deep, we're probably the fastest team in the country.

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