PARK CITY, Utah — Sugar Bowl skier Mark Engel of Truckee won the NCAA men’s giant slalom national title this past Wednesday to lead his University of Utah team on Day 1 of the 2014 NCAA Skiing Championships.
Engel, a freshman after competing for two seasons on the U.S. Ski Team, is Utah’s first men’s alpine national champion since Scott Veenis won the GS in 2006. Utah has had at least one NCAA champion every year since 2010.
“It’s unbelievable. It feels really good,” said Engel, who posted a two-run combined time of 1:58.56 to edge Armin Triendl (1:59.70) of University of New Mexico. “This hill always skis tactically the same way. You have to hold back in a spot and then go for it in another spot. So, if you ski the hill [a lot] it definitely helps.
“I slowed down a bit, but the course was really turny right there, so it wasn’t the worst move,” said Engel about a near fall early in the second run. “So, I had a mistake and had to slow down, but it really set me up nicely for the next section. Just slowing down a little into the turns (there) helped me. It was a little bit bumpier on the second run and little bit harder to see because of the clouds. But the snow held up pretty nicely.”
Engel, who earned All-America honors with his national title, finished first or second in his previous four races for the Utes and has six top-five finishes this year.
Every team struggled with changing conditions throughout the day as the temperature climbed into the 40s.
Engel’s Utah team finished fifth overall with 392 points between its alpine and Nordic squads. University of Denver won the title with 556 points and was followed by University of Vermont (487.5), University of New Mexico (458.5) and University of Colorado (402.5).