The University of Alaska Anchorage (UAA) Seawolves ski team dominated the field at the first-ever FIS Coaches Cup ski races held at Mount Sima Nov. 18-19.
Not only did they sweep the podiums in men’s and women’s Giant Slalom (GS) and Slalom, but on Friday, the UAA women claimed the top six spots in the GS and the men swept the top four positions in their GS.
The Star spoke to UAA’s Jan Ronner from Wald Im Schoberpass, Austria (near Schladming), following his victory in the men’s GS Friday.
“I’m really happy. It’s great to start the season like that. It was a great race, I think. The conditions were great and we had the chance to train here for the last days and we have some great training and it’s perfect to start the season with a win.”
“I think my first run was a better run. I was leading after the first run … I didn’t have the fastest time on the second run but I think it was good skiing on both runs. I was happy with my skiing today.”
Ronner said the conditions were great.
“They were perfect today. Every start I had perfect conditions. Also the young people’s team here, perfect for their first FIS races.”
Ronner, 22, is an experienced FIS racer.
“I’m already pretty old,” he laughed. “I think it’s my sixth season, so I’ve been racing in Austria before and last year I came to the US and the UAA Seawolves and I really like it here. I had a good season last year and I hope we’re having a good season this year as a team.”
Ronner earned National Collegiate All-Academic Ski Team honours last year. Despite the accolades, he said “I hope I can step it up this year and be top-seven, would be great.”
Ronner capped a successful weekend with third in the slalom on Saturday.
Caeden Carruthers, 21, is from Fredricton, N.B. but spent the last five years in Calgary. Carruthers finished second in the men’s GS Friday.
“Today was good. Good for me … just good to be back racing. (It’s a) long off-season for ski racers and we live to race, so we get a lot of training in. We spend a lot of time in the gym and a lot of time on snow skiing throughout the fall and even in the spring, so when we get back to our first race it’s always really exciting, so it’s just good to be back.”
Carruthers attributes his success to “a really great team. Everyone’s been feeding off each other and pushing each other all through the off-season, so it’s been great to join the new team with a really strong atmosphere and culture, good coaches, good teammates, have made everything easy this year.”
Carruthers finished fourth in the slalom on Saturday.
Ashleigh Alexander, 22, from Cochrane, Alta., near Calgary, finished first in the women’s GS last Friday.
“Considering my second day on GS skis, or second full-length course, it definitely went better than expected, which was nice,” she said.
“This is my second year with UAA. Before that, I was on the Alberta ski team for about four years. I did my first year of FIS with Calgary Alpine and before that I skied in a club since I was like, eight. So I’ve been doing this for a while.”
Alexander said being in the Yukon is “super cool. How many people get to say they ski in Whitehorse? How many people say they come to Whitehorse? I drove through on my way up to Anchorage and it was just cool to see this place in the summer and now in the winter. We were here last year and it was really cold but this year it’s a lot warmer, so that’s always nice.”
Like Carruthers, Alexander attributes her success to the team.
“The team, hard work and the atmosphere of our team is so great. Everyone’s always happy. I don’t think anybody, today at least, expected to come out and ski their best and I was lucky, put two solid runs together, again, considering the lack of training, so that was just … nice to get back on snow.”
Alexander added that “keeping a level head” was a key to her success.
“Just kind of chillin’, being like ‘whatever happens, happens’, hope for the best. I just try my best.”
Alexander is in Mechanical Engineering at UAA.
She was looking forward to skiing in the slalom on Saturday.
“Slalom isn’t my stronger event of the two, so, just hoping for the best. We only had one day on slalom skis, which was yesterday, so tomorrow should be interesting. Feeling more confident than I should probably, going into tomorrow’s race. I skied OK yesterday in training, so I’m excited to get in the slalom gate.”
Alexander topped off her successful weekend with a fifth in Saturday’s slalom.
The Star spoke with Matt Jenner, the president of Alpine Yukon as they were getting ready to set up for the second GS run last Friday.
“It’s a spectacular day. It’s wonderful to see all these racers out here having a great time on the mountain.”
There were no Yukon skiers in the FIS races, but Alpine Yukon had three athletes from the alpine Yukon’s high performance race team participate in the FIS race as forerunners. Those athletes were Mack Jenner, Ellyann Dinn and Annie Heffner.
Jenner was pleased with the course conditions.
“Well, it’s hard and fast, for sure. Temperatures this morning were sitting around -10, and I think the warmer weather a few days ago really helped out, because when you get wet snow and you get the cold weather, it starts to ice up, become really hard. So that’s essentially what you want in FIS competitions, is a really firm ski surface, right?”
“I haven’t had an opportunity to talk to any of the athletes, but you can see a lot of happy faces at the end of the finish line. Looking at the live timing that happens, we have some really fast runs … my intuition says it was one heck of a ride down,” he related.
Jenner said they would be adjusting the course for the slalom races on Saturday.
“I’d say there’s a pretty good chance we’re gonna be working into the night on that one.”
Jenner added “I just want to thank all the volunteers for coming out and helping because without them, events like this just don’t happen.”