STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, Colo. - A trio of Saint Michael's College Alpine skiers completed their first day at the NCAA Championship on Wednesday at Mount Werner in the Steamboat Ski Resort. During a meet involving student-athletes from Division I, II and III that's being hosted by the University of Colorado, Boulder, the Purple Knights currently sit 12th among 14 scoring programs with 23 points, just two short of Colby College.
Sophomore Meggane Grand (La Plagne, France/Lycée des métiers Ambroise Croizat) and first-years Guillaume Grand (La Plagne, France/Lycée Général Ferrié) and Torjus Grimsrud (Stabekk, Norway/Donski Alpine) provided Saint Michael's a school-record three qualifiers for the NCAA Championship, as each made their debut at the national meet. They're also among only 13 Purple Knights - nine being Alpine racers - to ever compete at NCAAs. Thirty-four male and 34 female Alpine skiers qualified for the championship, including 16 apiece from the East Region. The College has now had representation at the last five NCAA Championships, and seven of eight since 2009.
Guillaume Grand started 12th and finished in the same position during the giant slalom, with his 12th-place showing the best ever by a Purple Knight at an NCAA Championship, male or female, Alpine or Nordic. He stood 15th after an opening-run time of 56.74 only to rally with the eighth-best second-trek performance, clocking in at 55.80. Grand's total time was 1:52.54, leaving him fourth among East skiers. With the top 10 overall earning All-America status, Grand came within 0.01 seconds of becoming the initial All-America qualifier in Saint Michael's skiing history. He surpassed SMC Athletic Hall of Famer Keith Farnand's '00 13th-place slalom showing from 1998, while the prior best GS finish by a Purple Knight had been 15th by Megan McCarthy '05 at the 2002 NCAA Championship. Fredrik Sandell's '15 19th-place result at last year's meet was the previous high showing by a Saint Michael's male in the GS.
Meggane Grand, Guillaume's younger sister, became the first Purple Knight female for either discipline to qualify for NCAAs since McCarthy in 2002. Meggane started 33rd in the GS but finished 27th overall, including 12th among skiers from her region. She clocked in at 1:01.03 to open and then 1:04.23 on her second run to finish with a composite 2:05.26. Grimsrud started 31st in the men's GS before completing his first run at 58.71 to claim 32nd. During his second run, he fell around a turn to be knocked out of contention to finish the event.
Skiers return for the slalom on Friday at Howelsen Hill Ski Area, as the women start at 8:30 p.m. Eastern Standard Time and the men at 9:15 p.m. The NCAA Championship is being webcast live on NCAA.com/liveschedule, while complete multimedia links are available here.
Head Coach Gus MacLeod '02
"It was solid, it was all their first experience with NCAAs. Meggane didn't ski as well as she had been training out here, but overall it was still a move in the right direction with her GS skiing. She had a few turns that were really good. Guillaume put down a really good second run; first run, a couple mistakes in that middle steep before the flat, so that cost him some time, and then second run a pretty big mistake up top, but he skied pretty damn well from there. He had a pretty impressive recovery and then after that he definitely stepped it up a few notches. Torjus, first run wasn't what he's been doing, but the second run he skied a lot better; unfortunately he got juiced and ripped a couple turns and got a little too much out of the ski and got launched. Overall everybody's in pretty good spirits, and even though none of them are satisfied with that they did, they're OK with it, they're happy, they're definitely all looking forward to taking it to the slalom. They got that first race out of the way, got the nerves out of the way a little bit and just realized, 'This is what I'm competing against, this is the field, I can compete with them. I can throw it down and make stuff happen.'"
First-year Torjus Grimsrud
"It's really fun to be out here competing with the best college skiers in the country. I'm just really happy to be here right now, and with great teammates. It's really nice to have some teammates around you. You can support each other, and even if you don't do well, they're always there for you. It's really nice having some teammates with you backing you up. My day was not that great. First run was pretty bad skiing, second run was a lot better skiing, but I ended up falling almost at the bottom, but in skiing, it happens. My day wasn't too good, but Guillaume's day was great, so I'm happy for him. I'm really looking forward to having a slalom training day tomorrow and then go on with the slalom race, which is the discipline where I'm feeling pretty confident. I'm excited for Friday and for racing the slalom."
Sophomore Meggane Grand
"I had some really good training days yesterday and on Monday, so I was pretty bummed to not be able to do that on race day. It's definitely great because even if you don't have a great day but one of your teammates did, you can still be happy and have a smile on your face at the end of the day. And it's great that after training, after racing, you come back to the condo and you're not by yourself; you hang out with your teammates, or go run together for recovery. I feel like it's a lot more fun. I was just looking forward to seeing the level of the other girls on the circuit out west, and I wasn't surprised, there are really great, really fast girls out there. I think it's really fun that the best skiers from both the West and the East are competing together. We had the banquet last night, which was great, having all the teams together. I'm having fun here, for sure. The fact that there are three of us and Saint Mike's has never done that before, it's just really crazy, we're really proud of that. It's great that we have a bunch of Saint Mike's people at NCAAs to show maybe future recruits that we're fast here and we go to NCAAs."
First-year Guillaume Grand
On Day 1 at NCAAs...
"It's really cool to be here, it's really fun. Today I had a pretty good result, I think, but I'm kind of frustrated because I made mistakes in both runs. But we have slalom on Friday still."
On representing Saint Michael's...
"We have a new flag, yesterday we were showing off our new flag. We're showing people from other colleges that we're better than they think."
On receiving support from campus...
"We have some friends that sent us a couple messages, and that's cool to receive messages and support from guys from the school and our team; one of my classmates from the soccer team sent me a message. So that's pretty cool."