No matter how it ends this week at the NCAA skiing championships in Park City, Utah, Andreas Haug considers himself lucky to have been a part of the University of Colorado ski team these past four years.
Haug will compete in the national championships for a fourth year on the alpine side in the slalom and giant slalom hoping to help the Buffs repeat as national champions and win their third title in his four years.
CU has finished first or second in the nation as a team in six of the past eight national championships. Not only are the Buffs attempting to repeat as national champions, they are trying to help the school win its 20th national title in skiing and win a second national title in one school year for only the third time in history.
The CU men's cross country team won the national title in the fall
Haug is one of 12 skiers — a full contingent — CU qualified for the championships. All six members of the team on the alpine side, three men and three women, competed in the NCAA championships last year. Haug is the most experienced member of the team.
"I've been here and done this before," Haug said. "What I've learned is the most important thing for a championship like this is to play as a team and get the whole team motivated and excited. That's our strategy to go for another victory."
Of course Haug would also like to earn an individual national title along the way. There is no better way to help his team after all. He appears to have at least a puncher's chance of doing so.
He pulled off a bit of a surprise two weeks ago by winning the regional championship in the giant slalom. He is usually stronger in the slalom.
Haug underwent eye surgery in the fall to correct a problem that had been slowing him down as it worsened the past two years. Haug said he has seen his results improve consistently since the surgery, culminating in his regional championship.
"I think I really found my form these last couple weeks," he said.
The championships begin Wednesday with the giant slalom for both women and men. The women's first run begins at 9 a.m. and the men starting racing at 12:30 p.m. Nordic racing begins Thursday with the women's 5k and the men's 10k. The alpine skiers are back on the mountain Friday for the slalom and the championships end on Saturday with the men's 20k freestyle race and the women's 15k freestyle.
Sophomores Henrik Gunnarsson and Kit Hietanen join Haug in men's alpine. CU sophomore Jessica Honkonen is the No. 1 seed in the west in women's alpine. She is joined by fellow sophomores Thea Grosvold and Brooke Wales.
Junior Rune Oedegaard will attempt to repeat as national champion in the men's 20k freestyle race. He is also trying to set a new CU record by claiming his 14th career victory. He is joined in the men's Nordic races by fellow Buffs Arnaud Du Pasquier and freshman Mads Stroem.
Maybe the most unpredictable part of the week will be the women's Nordic events where CU has three newcomers this year in the field in Camilla Brautaset, Lucy Newman and Maja Solbakken, Brautaset is the highest seeded of the three at No. 9 but Solbakken has been most consistent of late.
Veteran CU coach Richard Rokos said he feels good about his team's chances after overcoming some injuries throughout the season and watching the progress of five freshmen who qualified for the championships this year.
He said Denver, Utah, New Mexico, Vermont and Dartmouth are all threats to win the championship this season.
"You cannot expect it every year," Rokos said. "Everybody wants a piece of you the following year. You're not under the radar screen. It's a process and for me, I'm always more process oriented than goal oriented. If the process is good, then we have a goal come out of it.
"I think we've had a great season. Everybody is healthy, everybody is in good academic standing. Let's see what will be final result."