Montana State ski team faces uphill battle

At first glance skiing is simple: go downhill. However, competitive skiing has many intricate qualities that make it unique. First off, both nordic (better known as cross country) and alpine (downhill) racing are scored together. They use a points system in which the skier attempts to reach the highest point total. For a first place finish the winner receives 40 points for their team and the total decreases from then on. Then each team’s top three finishers’ scores are combined  together to calculate each team total.

Nordic ski racing consists of a short distance race called freestyle with a distance of 5K for women’s and 10K for men’s. A longer distance race is called classical, which typically for women is a 10K and for men is a 20K. The MSU men’s nordic team is lead by Sawyer Kesselheim (Sr.) he leads the team this year with 3rd and 4th place finishes in the 10K and two 6th place finishes in classical races so far this season. For the women’s team Cambria McDermott took 4th in both the freestyle and classical at the Utah Invitational and 7th and 24th at the MSU Invitational.

Alpine skiing competitions consist of slalom and giant slalom which involve skiing between poles or gates. The difference between slalom and giant slalom is the distance between the gates; in giant slalom the gates are further apart. Returners David Neuhauser (Jr.) and Garret Driller (So.) look are both looking to build off last season. While both have struggled so far in giant slalom, they have been successful in slalom with Neuhauser taking 5th and Driller 6th at the Utah Invitational. They were consistent at the MSU invite with Neuhauser taking 3rd and Driller 9th.

Both teams look to build from last year’s success, making it to the national championships. MSU returns ten skiers from last year’s 7th place team. Looking to continue to be competitive, the Cats hope freshmen Morten Bakke and Jeffery Bell can immediately contribute. In his first collegiate race Bakke impressed with a 7th place finish in slalom and 12th in giant slalom. For the women’s nordic team they look to have Anika Miller (Jr.) and Johanna Taliharm (Fr.) to have impactful seasons. Both have proven capable with Miller placing 9th at the Utah Invite and 13th at MSU Invite and Taliharm placing 6th in Utah and 15th at MSU.

Even with these new additions the path to a national championship looks rugged with the University of Denver and University of Colorado both being stacked with experienced talent. Last year University of Colorado won the national title and has been good so far this year with two second place finishes, only losing by a combined total of 17 points. Not too far behind were the Bobcats placing fourth at both events. Even though they have had some success, “They won’t be satisfied, but they’re getting better every day and that is the key to a good season. We just need to keep building toward NCAAs,” MSU Alpine Coach Kevin Francis stated.

Morten Bakke tucks into a gate on the final streches of the course at the annual MSU Invitational January 9th at Big Sky Resort. Photo by Colter Peterson
Morten Bakke tucks into a gate on the final streches of the course at the annual MSU Invitational January 9th at Big Sky Resort. Photo by Colter Peterson