STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, Colo. — On the final day of the NCAA Skiing Championships at Howelsen Hill, freshman Katharine Ogden did what no Dartmouth skier had done in 56 years — win two national titles in one year.
Ogden pulled away from the pack early during the second of three 5K loops, and despite a quick fall near the end of that second lap, cruised to victory in the 15K freestyle by 37.6 seconds to complete the sweep of the two Nordic races at the championships. The EISA Women’s Nordic Rookie of the Year won the 5K classical on Thursday by an even wider margin of 46.9 seconds.
With Ogden leading the charge, Dartmouth maintained its position in third place, enjoying its best finish in seven years with 448.5 points. Denver won its 24th NCAA crown with 603 points, topping host Colorado, which finished as the runner-up for the third straight year, with 563. Utah ended up behind the Big Green in fourth (385.5) while Vermont settled for fifth (330).
With Ogden’s two titles and Dartmouth’s two men’s alpine crowns (Brian McLaughlin in the giant slalom and Tanguy Nef in the slalom), the Big Green won four individual events at the NCAA Championships for just the second time ever, the other coming 61 years ago.
The women’s race was the final event of the four-day competition, and Ogden loomed among the top five throughout the first lap after the mass start. The freshman made her move shortly after completing that first loop and quickly established herself as the runaway leader. When Ogden took a spill, she had a cushion of at least 40 seconds, but still quickly recovered and finished the second lap with 37 seconds between her and Colorado’s Petra Hincicova. Her lap time of 14:10 was 18 seconds faster than anyone else on any lap during the race (though her last lap in 14:27 was also faster than the other skiers).
No skier would close that gap the rest of the way, and Ogden got a little playful as she approached the finish line, grabbing the shades off the face of Dartmouth men’s Nordic coach, Brayton Osgood, to replace the ones she ditched that were a bit snow-covered after her fall. She also snagged a Dartmouth Lone Pine flag and carried it across the tape, completing her victory in 43:22.0, well ahead of Alaska Anchorage’s Hailey Swirbul in 44:00.4.
“Katharine absolutely wanted this one, and she really likes to win,” said Cami Thompson Graves, the Dartmouth Director of Skiing and women’s Nordic head coach. “She wasn’t about to let a fall slow her down, she has such a great competitive fire. But she also showed her playful side grabbing Brayton’s glasses and smiling all the way to the finish line!”
Sophomore Lauren Jortberg, skiing back in her home state, also put together a strong race to earn a spot on the All-America Second Team for a second straight year by finishing eighth in 45:01.8. Junior Lydia Blanchet made a push to move up six spots over the final lap to claim 15th in 46:19.1, allowing Dartmouth to claim a team victory in the race with 79 points, just ahead of Denver (77) and Colorado (72).
The day began with the men’s 20K freestyle, which was a much tighter race featuring many more skiers packed together up front during the first two laps. Among those toward the front was senior Callan DeLine, another Colorado native, who lurked among the top 10 throughout the race. At the end of the first loop, he was running eighth, though the top 27 skiers were separated by a mere six seconds, a group that included junior Gavin McEwen. By the midpoint, 17 skiers were still just six seconds apart with DeLine right in the middle of the action and McEwen just another second behind that group.
It was still anyone’s race with just one lap remaining as 14 skiers recorded split times between 41:54 and 41:57. DeLine briefly enjoyed the lead during that last lap, but quickly settled back into third as Northern Michigan’s Ian Torchia and Colorado’s Alvar Alev proceeded to duel down the stretch for the victory. Torchia prevailed by two seconds with a time of 54:21.0, and DeLine held off a pair of skiers charging behind him to finish fifth (54:32.2) and earn All-America honors for the second time at the championships, making the first team after a second-team performance in the classical two days ago.
McEwen completed his 20K in 55:53.1, good for 22nd place to earn nine points for the Big Green, while senior Luke Brown settled for 30th in 57:06.3 to add a point to the Dartmouth total of 39 points. Denver had its three skiers among the top seven to win the team title with 89 points, while Colorado posted 80 points with three skiers in the top 10.
Notes: Dartmouth had four individual champions in 1957 as Ralph Miller won three (alpine, downhill and skimeister) and Chiharu Igaya won the slalom for his NCAA-record sixth title … the Big Green also finished third in 2011 behind Colorado and Utah … the last Dartmouth NCAA skiing title came in 2007 … the last Big Green skier to win multiple NCAA events in a career was Dave Viele, who won the giant slalom in both 1998 and ’99 … Ogden was the first Dartmouth skier to win the NCAA classical race on Thursday, and first female to win a cross country race for the Big Green. Now she has two.