Colorado Mesa Alpine skiers on fast track
After only three years, the Colorado Mesa University Alpine ski team is making quite a statement on the slopes.
Hosting the Maverick Invitational at Powderhorn Mountain Resort over the weekend, CMU showed how far it’s come in a short time, with strong finishes by both the men’s and women’s teams.
Led by Sarah Gregory, who won Sunday’s slalom race and finished third in Saturday’s giant slalom, the women finished second to the University of Colorado.
Last season, Gregory was an all-American by United States Collegiate Ski and Snowboard Association.
Overall for the season, the women finished second in the Rocky Mountain Conference behind CU.
The men finished fifth this weekend and were led by Micah Evonitz’s fourth-place finish in the slalom. Overall, the CMU men finished fourth in the conference, which was also won by CU.
Mattie Wells, who finished sixth Sunday, said skiing was a big reason she came to CMU last year.
“I’ve always been a ski racer and probably always will be,” she said. “I wanted to help get (the CMU team) going and wanted to be part of a team.”
Last year, the CMU women qualified for nationals and they are on track to do the same this year.
Both CMU teams qualified and will travel to McCall, Idaho, for the regional competition that starts Thursday.
Kathleen Moore was the only woman on the team when it was formed three years ago. The Dillon native, who placed 12th in Saturday’s giant slalom, has been skiing since the fourth grade.
“It’s been nice to have a team now and it’ll be exciting if we make it to nationals again,” she said.
Evonitz, a Carbondale native who’s used to skiing the big mountains of Aspen, is excited to be part of a collegiate team that’s still in its infancy.
“It’s a great feeling, kind of starting a sport for the school, and I think it has great potential,” he said.
After a thumb injury last season, Evonitz, 21, has been one of the top men’s skiers in the conference with a number of top-three finishes and one win.
On Saturday, a timing problem limited the men to just one run in the giant slalom, which was disappointing for the Roaring Fork High School graduate, who placed seventh.
“I kind of wish we would have that second run, I’m usually a little better in the second run,” he said.
He also said it was a grueling weekend, since the team had to help set up and tear down the course both days.
Coach Jack Harbottle said it’s exciting and necessary for CMU to host an event.
“This is good for CMU and if we want to be a good ski team and be one of the best in the nation, we have to host races,” he said.
He said the women’s team and Evonitz have an excellent chance at qualifying for nationals with good finishes at regionals.
“The women look really good and should make it and Micah looks really good for the men,” he said.
If a team doesn’t qualify, the fastest individual competitor not on a qualifying team will earn a berth to nationals, Harbottle said.
The men’s team only has three members; the women have five. The top three fastest finishers per team make up the team score.
One of men’s team members is Lucca Scariano from Missoula, Mont.
“I grew up skiing but never skied competitively until I joined this team,” he said.
He came to CMU to be on the swim team but decided to give ski racing a try last year.
Evonitz said the men’s team has shown great improvement throughout the season.
“With such a small guys’ team, as long as we can all get down the hill, we do pretty well, so that’s exciting,” he said.
Wells, a 19-year-old sophomore, said it’s been special to help develop a team nearly from the ground up.
“It’s really rewarding, because I’ve helped pave the way and I would love to see our team grow even more,” she said.
Nationals are at Lake Placid, N.Y. starting March 9.