NCAA Championships PreviewMarch 9, 2022
The pinnacle of collegiate racing, NCAA Championships comes to Park City, Utah this week, starting Wednesday and running through Saturday. Hosted at the Park City Mountain Resort & Soldier Hollow, cross country ski racing is slated for Thursday and Saturday, with the men competing in a 10K classic and 20K freestyle event on either day, while the women will be competing in a 5K classic and 15K freestyle event on the respective days.
Always the most anticipated races of the season, be sure to keep an eye on favorites, but don't dismiss the possibility of seeing some upsets as well. In particular, the men's races should be well contested, with all of the top prospects jockeying for the top of the podium at different points over the last few month. The women's race, in contrast, should largely be decided amongst the trio from the University of Utah: Sydney Palmer-Leger, Novie McCave, and Sophia Laukli, who have been dominant all season long. Don't forget to be on the lookout for the nine athletes with Midwest ties in the results either, who include:
- Roger Anderson (UNH)
- Xavier Mansfield (NMU)
- Colin Freed (MTU)
- Henry Snider (MTU)
- CJ Young (UWGB)
- Erin Bianco (CBC)
- Renae Anderson (BOW)
- Luci Anderson (UNH)
- Anabel Needham (MTU)
- Thursday, March 10: Classic Individual Start
- Women's 5K (11:00 am CST)
- Men's 10K (1:00 pm CST)
- Saturday, March 12: Freestyle Mass Start
- Men's 20K (10:30 am CST)
- Women's 15K (12:30 pm CST)
The location of the US Nationals earlier in the year and now NCAA Championships, Soldier Hollow is a course defined by challenging elevation, both in terms of the altitude of the venue itself (6,000 ft), and the long climbs and steep descents throughout the course. Look to results from US National back in January as a possible predictor of how some athletes may fair, but don't discount the fact that many have also taken the opportunity to improve their fitness and adapt to the conditions since then.
For the men's and women's classic race, athletes will be utilizing a 2.5K loop that starts with a gradual climb out of the stadium, leading into two more short but steep climbs, before a final steep and sustained climb and descent back down into the stadium.
Saturday's freestyle races will both follow a variation of the 2.5K loop, with the women skiing a 3.3K loop that adds on a spur out of the stadium, making the initial gradual climb a much longer effort, roughly equal to that of the final climb. The men will be skiing a 3.75K loop that adds the spur of the 3.3K loop, in addition to a climb in between the middle two climbs that is equal in elevation to each of those climbs, albiet more gradual.
As in years past, NCAA will be broadcasting races live on their website throughout NCAA Championships. Live results will also be available, courtesy of the hosting division, RMISA, and we will be sure to post updates on Skinnyski.com shortly after each race has concluded.
There is no bigger stage for collegiate athletes, and as such, be prepared for some exciting days of racing ahead as they put it all on the line for the final competition of the season. Favorites are only favorites on paper, and anything can happen when the pressure is on.