CMC men's ski team looks for U.S. title

— Colorado Mountain College's Alpine Campus men's ski team will leave for Boise, Idaho, this week with one thing on their minds winning the United States Collegiate Skiing Association's national title for their head coach. The event will take place at the Bogus Basin Ski Area March 5-10.

"This one is for Ames," alpine skier Hans Herner said referring to the team's longtime head coach Ames Chandler. Chandler, who led CMC to six consecutive national appearance from 1993-1998, will retire at the end of this season. She plans on moving to Lake Tahoe.

Chandler helped lead this year's men's alpine team to the national championships. The alpine skiers qualified by racing to fourth place in the 18-team regional championship field Feb. 21-24 in Park City, Utah. The top 5 teams in the region earn national berths. Montana State University won the meet, Whitman College placed second and the University of British Columbia came in third. The local CMC skiers raced to fourth and the final team to qualify was Idaho's Albertson College.

So on Monday, CMC skiers including Herner, Chris Beyer, Jay Lawton, Erland Halsnes, David Kelly and Kris Fowler left for the USCSA National Championships. Two cross-country skiers, Loren Elkins and Todd O'Blenness, also made the cut and will compete next week for CMC on the nordic side.

"We were the only two-year school in the 18-team field, so I'm very pleased," Chandler said. "The men's team definitely had the potential to do this well. We could have done better in the slalom race, so it could have been even better."

Top individual finishes were turned in by Herner, who was 15th in the giant slalom. Halsnes, once of several members on the team who attended Steamboat Springs High School, was 20th. Lawton earned a 24th-place finish, David Kelly came in 58th and Beyer was 65th.

In the slalom, Lawton topped the local skiers with an 11th-place finish. Halsnes came in 13th and Herner was 31st. Kelly was 47th and Fowler came in 66th.

Halsnes, Fowler, Lawton and Elkins all grew up in Steamboat Springs.

"We feel real good about it," Beyer said of making the nationals cut for the first time in two years. "I think we have a pretty good shot at breaking into the top 5 (on the alpine side) if everyone skies up to their potential."

It will be the first time any of the skiers have skied at the USCSA National Championships.

While the Alpine skiers feel they have a solid bid for a top-10 finish, Chandler thinks if they push themselves they could do even better.

"Sierra Nevada is the top-ranked team in the country and is favored to win," Chandler said. "I'm thinking we can definitely finish in the top 10, but I'm pushing for the top 5. We're just going to go for it and leave nothing to chance."

While the Alpine skiers are heading to nationals with top results in mind, the nordic side just wants to reach some personal goals. Because there are just two skiers, CMC will not factor into the team standings.

"I just want to ski fast and do my best," Elkins said. "The competition is pretty tough, but I'm really looking forward to it."

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