(This story was originally published on UtahUtes.com.)
Utah’s Novie McCabe completed a sweep of the Nordic races at the 2023 NCAA Skiing Championships on Saturday, winning the women’s 20K Classic in 1:00:04.3, to power the Utes to their fourth consecutive NCAA team championship and fifth win in the last six NCAA Championships. It is the Utah Ski Team’s 16th national championship.
The Utes’ Sophia Laukli followed in third place, and Sydney Palmer-Leger finished fifth, to contribute 103.0 points to Utah’s team total, the most by one team in any race in the 2023 NCAA Championships. In the men’s 20K Classic, Utah’s Samuel Hendry led a strong team effort with a fourth-place finish, followed by Luke Jager in 11th and Walker Hall in 17th, for an additional 65.0 points to seal the win for the Utes.
Utah won the title with 526.0 points, followed by Colorado (491.5) and Denver (416.5).
“It’s an incredible feeling to pull this one off,” said Director of Skiing Fredrik Landstedt. “It was probably the hardest one in my five years at Utah. Colorado came out and they really performed at a higher level than they have all winter, and it ended up coming down to the wire. I’m very proud of our whole team.”
Since the NCAA combined genders in skiing beginning with the 1983 Ski Championships, the Utes are the first program to win four straight team NCAA Championships.
Utah’s team win was highlighted by a dominant performance on the women’s side, as Utah skiers won all four national championship races this week in Lake Placid. Madison Hoffman was a double national champion in the Alpine competition, winning the giant slalom to open the competition on Wednesday, and claiming the win in slalom on Friday. That set the stage on Saturday in the Nordic competition for McCabe, who had won the women’s 5K Freestyle on Thursday, to complete the quartet of individual championships for the Utes.
“It was a really good day out there today,” McCabe said. “It was fun to ski with both of my teammates for pretty much the whole race. I think we really wanted to really try to work together coming into this and get some good points for the team. I’m really happy with today and proud of how everyone performed.”
With McCabe’s win today, Utah has swept the women’s Nordic races at each of the last three NCAA Championships, winning six consecutive races. Palmer-Leger swept the 2021 titles, while McCabe (5K Classic) and Laukli (15K Freestyle) claimed last year’s individual titles, before this year’s sweep by McCabe.
“That was just incredible by our Nordic women,” Landstedt said. “They are just in a different class. For all three of them to be up there the entire race, especially with Sydney and Sophia coming straight from Europe and definitely being a little tired coming back from the World Championships is just awesome. This was a really tough race, and a tough course with the conditions, so they had to fight it out and it took everything they had to be able to stay up there and finish that well. With long hills and tough conditions it was a tough course to ski.”
McCabe, Laukli and Palmer-Leger formed the lead pack throughout today’s 20K Classic, with McCabe’s winning time of 1:00:04.3 followed closely by Laukli’s 1:00:25.3 for third place and Palmer-Leger’s 1:01:31.2 for fifth. In the Men’s 20K Classic, Hendry’s fourth-place time of 55:43.0 led the way for the Utes. Jager’s 11th-place finish came in a time of 57:01.7 and Hall’s 17th-place performance came in 58:43.0, all contributing valuable points toward Utah’s 34.5-point team victory.
Hendry’s fourth-place performance in today’s 20K Classic followed second-place finishes in each of the 2021 and 2022 NCAA Championships 20K Freestyle races, and was his fifth career top-three finish in an NCAA Championships race for his fifth first-team All-America award.
“That was a battle in the men’s race, and the conditions got even harder as it got warmer and the course was a little slower, so it was not easy for anyone,” Landstedt said. “They said it was the hardest race they’ve ever had. Sam had a great race today. He came back and he was really disappointed after Thursday’s race so it was really exciting to see him finish fourth. Luke had to fight the whole way and so did Walker, and their finishes really helped the team.”
Today’s performances saw four Utes earn All-America honors (Hendry, McCabe, Laukli and Palmer-Leger), bringing Utah’s total for this year’s NCAA Championships meet to 13.
The team title is Coach Landstedt’s fourth NCAA championship at Utah (2019, ’21, ’22 and ’23) and sixth overall in collegiate skiing. Along with Landstedt, this is head alpine coach JJ Johnson‘s and head Nordic coach Miles Havlick‘s fourth national championship as coaches at Utah. It’s Mary Joyce‘s third national championship as the Utah assistant alpine coach.
This is the University of Utah’s 30th team national championship in school history, and fifth national title for Utah skiing in the past six NCAA Championships, dating back to 2017.
“We have an incredible coaching staff that works work so hard to make this happen,” Landstedt said. “The Alpine coaches, JJ (Johnson) and Mary (Joyce), do a great job for the team to be able to perform at this level at the championship. It’s always a bit of a gamble because you only have three spots in each race so everyone contributes and every few places can make the difference in falling to third, fourth or fifth place. Even one bad run can be the difference in a championship. And Miles (Havlick) works extremely hard with the Nordic team and does a really good job. There’s just so much that goes into it and that has to work out for Utah to have a good day.”
Utah came into the day holding a slim 1.5-point lead over Colorado, having surged into the lead Friday for the first time in this year’s championship meet with a strong day of Alpine racing, powered by Hoffman’s national championship in the slalom.
“It’s the same with the athletes,” Landstedt continued. “We have a tough team, for them to even make our NCAA team, because we have 22 or 23 and we only can take 12 to NCAAs. They come here and they’re under a lot of pressure because we have high expectations and they want to win it, and it makes it definitely more stressful than with a smaller team where you’re able to ski more individually. We have to always make sure we get the most points and ski for the team. That’s what makes it more fun, the way they support each other and they’re cheering other on. We have great camaraderie on this team, and I’m proud of the way they competed.”
- Utah Athletics now has 119 individual national champions, including 84 by the skiing program, which ranks third among all programs in the country
- The Utes won all four women’s races in this year’s championships, giving Utah four individual national champions in 2023, tying for second-most by a school across men’s and women’s teams in a single year. It was last accomplished by Dartmouth in 2018
- A Utah skier has won each of the last six women’s Nordic races at the NCAA Championships, spanning the last three years
- McCabe’s victory on Saturday was the 39th individual championship by Utah women’s skiers, and 15th by a Utah women’s Nordic skier.
- In the two women’s Nordic races, Utah claimed four top-two finishes and scored 191.0 total points (103.0 in Classic and 88.0 in Freestyle). Last year the women’s Nordic team scored 202.5 points and in 2021 scored 197.0 points en route to overall team titles
- The team leader after three days (or six events) of the NCAA Championships has won 23 of the last 27 times (though Utah rallied from 34½ points behind Denver to win the 2017 crown).
- The Utes have won 16 team national championships in skiing, 15 of which have been NCAA championships
- Utah has won four consecutive team NCAA Skiing Championships (2019, ’21, ’22, ’23), 15 NCAA titles and 16 overall national championships in program history. Utah’s 15 NCAA championships ranks third all-time (Denver 24; Colorado 19), and the program’s 14 championships since skiing went co-ed in 1983 are the most in the nation
- Utah has won 30 team national championships across all sports, led by the ski team’s 16 titles. Gymnastics is a 10-time national champion (9 NCAA, 1 AIAW), with three coming from men’s basketball (1 NCAA, 1 NIT, 1 AAU) and one in women’s cross-country (Division II).
- Since the NCAA combined genders in skiing beginning with the 1983 Ski Championships, the Utes are the first program to win four straight team NCAA Championships. Before genders were combined in 1983, Colorado won five NCAA men’s skiing titles in a row from 1972-76, though ’76 was a co-championship with Dartmouth. That run does include four outright team championships from 1972-75
- Utah director of skiing Fredrik Landstedt has been on staff for six NCAA Championships at three different schools and four different decades. It includes Utah (director of skiing; 2019, ’21, ’22, ’23), New Mexico (head Nordic coach; 2004) and Colorado (head Nordic coach; 1995).
- Head Nordic coach Miles Havlick and head alpine coach JJ Johnson have been part of Landstedt’s staff at Utah for the entire run of four straight NCAA team championships. Assistant alpine coach Mary Joyce has been part of three NCAA championships at Utah.
- The 2022 NCAA Ski Championships are the first NCAA ski crown won by Utah in the state of New York. The Utes have raced for the NCAA championship in the Empire State four times: 1980 (men, second place); 1982 (men, third place); 2015 (third place) and 2023 (first place).