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Thompson, Holland dazzle in slalom at NCAAs

Liz Thompson '09 achieved her goal of a top-15 finish, placing 11th in the slalom in her final race as a Bobcat. (Photos by Lincoln Benedict '09)

BETHEL, Maine -- Bates College alpine skiers Liz Thompson and Micaela Holland both achieved personal-best NCAA Championships finishes Friday in the women's slalom competition, finishing 11th and 18th, respectively, out of 34 competitors at Sunday River.

Thompson (Rangeley, Maine) finished out her career in triumphant, though somewhat bittersweet, fashion, checking in with a two-run combined time of 1:45.61, only 0.21 seconds behind Eva Huckova of Utah for 10th place and All-America status. Thompson stood in first place at the conclusion of her second run, but the top 10 spots all filled up after her.

"It's a little disappointing, but any top 15 finish would have been exciting, so I can't really complain," said Thompson, whose previous best NCAA finish in her four trips to NCAAs was yesterday's 18th-place showing in the giant slalom. "I did what I needed to do, but everyone behind me just skied really well, so I did what I had to do, it just wasn't quite enough."

Holland (Belmont, Mass.), a sophomore competing in her second NCAAs, finished 18th with a time of 1:47.93, the best national finish of her career thus far.

I think my first run was a little better than my second, but I really just went up there and gave it all I had. It was a little nerve-wracking, being young compared to all these people, and they're all really good. I'm just psyched to be here, but I'm really glad today went well.

"It was my goal this year to make it, and also to do better than I did last year, which I did today, so I'm psyched," said Holland. "A lot of my friends and our whole team came out to support me and Liz today, which is really cool."

The Bates alpine duo's performance lifted the Bobcats from 15th place to 13th in the team standings, with one day to go.

"They both skied above what they've been doing, which was great to see," said Bates alpine coach Rogan Connell. "And it was cool to see Liz turn it on in the last two races of her career. I wish it worked out better for her, but it was still a lot of fun to see her do that."

Thompson and Holland's three Nordic teammates -- seniors Sylvan Ellefson (Vail, Colo.) and Sam Evans-Brown (Gilmanton Iron Works, N.H.) and sophomore Natalie Ruppertsberger (Plainfield, N.H.) -- compete tomorrow in the freestyle races at Black Mountain in Rumford. The combined alpine and Nordic teams are vying for their fourth consecutive top-15 finish at NCAAs.

NCAA Day 2 Results (PDF)


Micaela Holland '11 produced her best NCAA finish in four tries thus far, placing 18th.

Friday's NCAA Alpine Recap

University of Colorado freshman Gabriel Rivas won the men's slalom title on Friday at the NCAA Skiing Championships at Sunday River, while New Mexico's Malin Hemmingsson and Estelle Pecherand-Carmet went 1-2 in the women's slalom, leading the Lobos to surge from sixth place to three points out of first place in the team standings, with one day remaining in the championships.

Vermont took a slight lead among a tightly packed top three in the team standings. The Catamounts, looking for their first team title since 1994, have 484 points. Defending champion University of Denver has 482 points and New Mexico has 481. Utah (444) and Colorado (439.5) round out the top five teams.

It’s only the third time in the last 13 seasons the lead has been in single digits at the three-quarter point; in 1997, Utah led CU by seven and went on to win by 39.5 points; and in 2006, Colorado led Denver by five before posting a 98-point win.

Rivas, a native of St. Jean de Maurienne, France, had the fastest run of the day in his first run, at 47.77 seconds, and claimed his first NCAA title with a combined time of 1:36.69, a day after finishing 18th in the giant slalom.

"Since I've been in the U.S., I've thought about this race, and it's very special because it's only a one-day race, not a ranking," said Rivas. "It's really an achievement to do that. I won, but everyone won at CU; it's teamwork."

Rivas was 0.81 seconds ahead of runner-up Petter Brenner of New Mexico. Rounding out the top five individuals were Leif Haugen of Denver, Joshua Kernan of Colby and Sean McNamara of New Hampshire.

Leif Haugen of Denver (left) and Petter Brenner of New Mexico flank men's slalom champion Gabriel Rivas of Colorado.

Rivas is Colorado's first NCAA champion in men's slalom since Andy Leroy in 2000.

New Mexico continued its powerhouse day in the women's slalom. Hemmingsson won her second NCAA slalom title, with a two-run combined time of 1:42.36, after also taking first in 2007 as a freshman. She was followed by her sophomore teammate, Estelle Pecherand-Carmet, at 1:43.58. Vermont duo Jilyne McDonald and Megan Ryley were fourth and fifth, respectively, and New Hampshire's Aileen Farrell rounded out the top five.

"It feels great -- I did it two years ago [when New Hampshire hosted the NCAAs], so I guess I like the ice," said Hemmingsson. "We were skiing on mogul courses all year, and then we come here and we can actually push, so it's pretty cool. This year we still have a chance of winning [the team title] if we do good in Nordic tomorrow, and we are."

The alpine competition at the NCAA Championships closes out with New Mexico scoring the most points in alpine, with 354 points, just a point ahead of New Hampshire (353).

The NCAA Skiing Championships conclude tomorrow with the Nordic freestyle races at Black Mountain in Rumford, Maine. The women's 15K Freestyle race starts at 10 a.m., followed by the men's 20K Freestyle at 12 p.m.

The three-point difference between the top three teams is the closest heading into the final two events in the NCAA Championships since the sport went coed in 1983; the previous tightest margin among the top three through six events came in 1997, when Utah (533), Colorado (526) and Vermont (524.5) were separated by eight-and-a-half points.

The closest margin in the final standings since 1983 came in 1998, when Colorado edged Utah by 2.5 points; the final spread has been 10 points or lower just four times (1986, 1989, 1995 and 1998).