PARK CITY & MIdway, Utah—The RMISA teams early this week ascended upon Park City and Midway, Utah, for the 69th Annual NCAA Ski Championships.
The RMISA is sending 68 skiers to the championship, 17 per gender and discipline in the NCAA's -1 rule, meaning a region cannot send a full allotment of skiers for all programs, one program must be one skier short. The formula used to determine seeds between regions is normally two to five more in the RMISA than allowed.
Host Utah is deemed the heavy favorite for this year's championship, winning all but one meet in the west and often times without a full team at its disposal. The Utes won the regular season championship and all the subcategories including alpine, Nordic, men's, women's and three of the four team awards in women's alpine, men's alpine and women's Nordic.
The Women's Nordic team is especially tough, featuring Sydney Palmer-Leger, the defending NCAA Champion in both disciplines. Her toughest competition to repeat could come from her own team as at the RMISA Championships in late February she was competing at the Junior World Championships while teammates Novie McCabe and Sophie Laulki went 1-2 in both races and in the 15K freestyle, the two were nearly four minutes ahead of the competition. The Utes also boast a deep team that includes 11 skiers that have skied at the NCAA Championships before. Utah has won three of the last four team titles and was in the lead of the 2020 championship when it was cancelled due to the impending COVID 19 Pandemic.
Other teams that boast a solid chance to unseat the Utes are Colorado and Denver, the other two teams in the west that will field full 12-member squads. Alaska Anchorage and Montana State will both be two skiers short while Nordic only Alaska Fairbanks and alpine only Westminster will both be sending full six-skier squads to Utah.
Colorado's strength comes in its men's teams, as the men's Nordic team features Magnus Boee, the defending champion in both disciplines who has put together another solid season for the Buffs. The men's alpine team features three skiers who have hit the podium at different times this season in Filip Forejtek, Louis Fausa and Jacob Dilling. Not to be outdone, the Women's teams could be peaking at the right time with the return of Magdalena Luczak and surface of Emma Hammergaard late in the season, and on the Nordic side the Buffs freshman Hanna Abrahamsson was one of just two skiers on the first-team All-RMSIA team not from Utah.
Denver also has the ability to put it all together to make a run at a title this season. The men's Nordic team scored the most points during the regular season with the Kirkeng brothers and Bernhard Flaschberger leading the way. The alpine team features Olympian Katie Hensien and Tobias Kogler, who won the individual NCAA Championship in the GS in 2020 and has two wins this season in another solid season. Cooper Cornelius, Simon Fournier, Nora Brand and Eleri Smart have all had solid seasons, as well. The Pioneeers success may come down to the performance of its Women's Nordic team, but Emma Larson, Vera Norli and Hanna Ray have all put down multiple top 10 performances this season.
Westminster should make noise on the alpine side for the second straight season and feature defending individual champion Mikkel Solbakken and on the women's side, Julia Toivianinen was on the podium last season. All six Griffins could pick up All-America honors this season.
Alaska Fairbanks is also bringing a solid team to Utah, especially on the women's side where Mariel Pulles and Kendall Kramer have put together solid seasons.
While Alaska Anchorage and Montana State both come in a little short-handed, both can also make some noise. The Bobcats will be full strength on the alpine side and feature the two RMISA MVPs with Bekketsta and Talbot on the women's side while the men's team has put some solid results together, as well. The Seawolves on the Nordic side feature Olympian J.C. Schoonmaker among other solid performers in Essen Persen and Astrid Stav, among others.
The RMISA has simply dominated college skiing over the past five and a half decades. Since 1967, Colorado (26 top two finishes with 17 titles), Utah (25, 13) and Denver (20, 14) have combined to win 44 of those 54 titles and the RMISA has 46 of those 54 titles with New Mexico and Wyoming, both not defunct, also winning championships. Vermont has won six of the remaining eight in from the EISA with Dartmouth taking the other two titles.
The east region, which returns Dartmouth and Middlebury after both schools didn't compete in 2021, has been dominated by Vermont this season, as the Catamounts won all four regular season meets and the EISA Championships. Dartmouth finished twice four times with Middlebury and New Hampshire also finishing in the second spot throughout the season. In the central region, Michigan Tech had the upper hand in the women's rankings and Northern Michigan on the men's as those two traditional powers account for 12 of the 17 skiers at the championship from the central region.