Montana State Bobcats ski team open season at Big Sky

Posted at 12:21 PM, Jan 06, 2018

(Editor’s note: Montana State University press release)

BOZEMAN – The Montana State ski team will begin its Rocky Mountain Intercollegiate Ski Association season this weekend when it hosts the MSU Invitational, Jan. 7-8 at Big Sky Resort. The giant slalom races will be held on Sunday, with the slalom events on Monday. Races will be held on Tippy’s Tumble.

Racers will get to preview the giant slalom course on Saturday running a NCAA/RMISA qualifier. No team score will be kept in the qualifier, but skiers will garner points towards qualifying for the NCAA Championships.

The Bobcats are coming off one of its best seasons in history. The MSU alpine team finished third at last year’s NCAA Championship in New Hampshire. The Cats led the nation after the opening day. Only Denver and Dartmouth had a better performance than MSU.

As a team, Montana State finished sixth in the nation and were fourth at the RMISA/NCAA West Regional.

“We have a strong team of veteran skiers starting the MSU Invite this year,” said head alpine coach Kevin Francis. “They are all returners from last year and have been training hard during the off-season.

“The conditions look great at Big Sky going into the races and the athletes have been skiing well in preseason competitions,” Francis added.

The Bobcat women will be led by senior Benni Lyche. Lyche, a native of Oslo, Norway was the 2017 NCAA Giant Slalom champion, becoming only the fourth MSU skier to capture a national title. She joined Tor Fageraas (1962), Dan Brelsford (1978), and Anika Miller (2016) in accomplishing the milestone.

Also returning to the Montana State line-up will be 2017 two-time All-American Stephanie Gartner. Gartner, a junior from Calgary, Alberta was national runner-up to Lyche in the giant slalom and finished tenth in the slalom.

The MSU men’s contingent will be guided by Garret Driller, Morten Bakke and Addison Dvoracek.

Driller, a senior from Tahoe City, Calif., is a two-time All-American, after placing seventh in the giant slalom at the 2017 NCAA meet. Dvoracek, a sophomore from Truckee, Calif., placed tenth in the giant slalom at the NCAA Championships in his first season with the Bobcats.

Bakke, a junior from Oslo, garnered All-America accolades in both the giant slalom and slalom at the 2016 NCAAs.

“We had ‘top collegiate athlete’ honors before Christmas from Benedicte Lyche, Jocelyn McCarthy and personal best results from Addison Dvoracek and Patrick Carry,” Francis said. “We’ll be looking for strong results from those four.

“There are no shortage of great skiers wearing blue and gold this weekend,” Francis commented. “Stephanie Gartner is ripping in slalom and her giant slalom is coming back to form. Kari Hole, who was injured at regionals after getting fifth in the giant slalom last year, had a great off-season and is skiing strong. Driller, who qualified for the US Ski Team this year and Morten Bakke are skiing really well, but have been a little inconsistent. With a good focus, they’ll have a great chance of punching it onto the podium this weekend.”

The Bobcat Nordic team will begin RMISA action at the University of Utah Invitational Jan. 11-12 at Snowbasin. The squad is currently competing in the US Cross Country Championships in Anchorage, Alaska.

Erik Axelsson posted MSU’s best finish, placing second in the collegiate division with a clocking of 38:44.5 in the 15-kilometer freestyle. Emma Tarbath and Johanna Taliharm placed sixth and seventh, respectively, in the 10-K race.

In freestyle sprint action, the Cats were led by Taliharm, who placed fourth in 3:29.70, and Axelsson, ninth, 3:17.75.