Grand lands second career All-America finish as Alpine races conclude at NCAA Championship

Grand lands second career All-America finish as Alpine races conclude at NCAA Championship

FRANCONIA, N.H. - Sophomore Guillaume Grand (La Plagne, France/Lycée Général Ferrié) became the first two-time All-America finisher in Saint Michael's College skiing history on Friday when the Alpine squad completed competition at the NCAA Championship at Cannon Mountain Ski Area.

Grand placed 10th out of 33 finishers in the slalom, earning All-America second team honors for the second straight year. Each of the 10 fastest skiers in any given event land All-America nods. Junior Mathias Grimsrud (Stabekk, Norway/Donski Alpine) closed out his first NCAA Championship in 15th place, while first-year Anna Willassen (Jar, Norway/Persbråten VGS) was 27th in a 31-finisher field.

During a meet that draws competitors from NCAA Division I, II and III schools, the Purple Knight trio has its institution sitting 14th out of 21 with 56 points, the most among colleges qualifying three individuals or fewer for the national championship, and the highest point total ever registered by Saint Michael's at the NCAA meet. Schools can send as many as 12 skiers between the Alpine and Nordic disciplines. Only Saturday's Nordic races remain, as the Purple Knights look to hold on to their highest placement since nabbing 13th in 1988.

Among the Eastern Intercollegiate Ski Association (EISA) competitors in the field, Saint Michael's has seventh-place points, trailing Williams College (62.5) by just 6.5 points for sixth in the region and 13th overall. Grand was sixth in the East and Grimsrud eighth, while Willassen took 12th. The two Purple Knight men scored 37 points on Friday, good for sixth place overall, trailing the three-man University of Utah squad by just two points. The Saint Michael's total was third in the region, behind only Dartmouth College and the University of Vermont.

Starting in the No. 5 bib, Grand stood 10th after his opening slalom run at 57.03 before turning in a second showing of 54.44, leaving him 10th overall with a combined time of 1:51.47. He became the College's first All-America skier last year during the slalom, when he took ninth, as the top three placements ever by a Purple Knight at the NCAA Championship belong to him. Grand was 12th in the 2016 giant slalom while capturing 16th during the GS this past Wednesday. He becomes the 24th student-athlete in Saint Michael's history to land multiple All-America honors, and the first not hailing from men's and women's basketball, field hockey or men's ice hockey.

Grimsrud started 22nd in the slalom but improved throughout the day, standing 17th after his first run thanks to crossing the finish line in 57.67 before clocking in at 54.59 in his second run, the 16th-fastest time of the day. That placed him 15th overall at 1:52.26, just 0.35 seconds short of 12th. Grimsrud had the fourth-highest slalom finish at an NCAA meet in program history, behind only Grand and Keith Farnand's '00 1998 performance (13th).

Willassen also moved up during the day, rounding out a school-record-tying contingent of three skiers. Wearing the No. 31 bib, she clocked in at 1:04.69 to place 28th heading into the afternoon session, where her time of 1:01.67 was the 27th-best showing. That also put her 27th overall with a composite time of 2:06.36.

Thirty-four men and 34 women competed in each Alpine race this week, with 16 apiece hailing from the East region. This marks the second consecutive season Saint Michael's sent three Alpine competitors to the NCAA Championship after multiple skiers had represented the College at the same NCAA Championship only twice before last season, when one Alpine and one Nordic competitor apiece took part in the 1998 and 1999 meets. Neither discipline had ever sent multiple racers to the same national meet prior to last winter.


IN THEIR OWN WORDS

Junior Mathias Grimsrud
On Day 3 at NCAAs...

It was icy, very slick. It was challenging but fun. It's a big championship, and you have to find the balance between making sure you get down but also ski as fast as possible. For sure, more pressure when it comes to an NCAA race. I think I handled it pretty well. It's a thin line from saving a little bit too much ... but I think maybe I can ski a little faster. I think I put down an OK result. I'm happy, but I feel like I maybe could have skied a little faster, but I'm still happy and psyched for the team. It's a lot of good skiers out there, and 15th place is not bad considering how many good athletes are around me. Considering slalom is my favorite event, I felt a little bit more confident coming into slalom than the [giant slalom on Wednesday]. I've skied way more slalom than I have skied GS, so it's all a mental game. I was just more confident, more comfortable today in slalom. And that helps with the pressure at the start, too, when you're at the start and you know what you're going to do, it takes a little pressure off your shoulders.

On teammates attending the race...
It's great to see that good of a team mentality, and they showed it is a team effort to get to the championships. It's fun.

On heading into Saturday having College's best placement at NCAAs in 29 years...
We have three athletes here now, and I think we've all done a pretty good job. We could have done better, I think we have the potential to do a little bit better, but it's still good, it's a good performance. If we break a record that goes back to the '80s, then that could be cool.


Sophomore Guillaume Grand
On Day 3 at NCAAs...

I was expecting to do better than that - my goal was fifth. I'm disappointed because I didn't ski like I usually do in slalom. The conditions were tough, that was really icy and really slick. The mix of the pressure plus those conditions, I skied pretty tight and not relaxed like I usually do. I didn't ski at my usual level, so it's very frustrating for me. That was a tough course, I fought all the way down [on the first run] to keep the line instead of letting it go with my skis. I knew right when I crossed the line, that was not good, and then I saw my time, and that was not what was expected. Also, the guy right before me [Montana State University's Garret Driller] went out twice and hiked, and I was trying not to look at it and not pay attention to it, so that definitely played a little bit with my mind and my way of thinking. It's really hard to just get away from that stuff when someone right in front of you is failing, and you know that he's a good skier. On my second run, I think I skied a little better, but it wasn't my usual ski. But ski racing, you can't be good all the time, and you have days like that, and that day came right for NCAAs in slalom, and that's it.

On being a two-time All-America finisher...
I can't say, "No, I don't want to take it" - I'm taking it, I'm happy, I'm happy because I'm an All-American! My goal is not to be 10th in a race, it's to be on the podium or be top five. I'm frustrated, but I know I'm an All-American and not everyone can get it, so I'll take it!

On teammates attending the race...
All the guys came - [Associate Director of Athletics Tacy Lincoln], [Athletic Trainer Chris Jones], all the guys from the ski team were here, so that was really nice to see them and see the support.


First-year Anna Willassen
On Day 3 at NCAAs...

It was some good skiing, but I didn't ski well all the way down, had some mistakes. I think I had more expectations of myself in GS than in slalom. I'm not super happy, but I'm not super disappointed, either. I made it down and it was OK. It was pretty hard, some turns were really slick and others were good. I started pretty far back, so, for me, it was a good thing it was hard because the course held up really well for all the runners. It was really fair weather and conditions.

On teammates attending the race...
Almost everyone, I think. That was awesome. And it was really fun to just ski with so many people watching. You can hear them when you ski down the course. It was a lot more people [than a normal carnival], and you have a lot of cameras and TV everywhere. But it was really nice, as soon as I got to the finish line, all of my teammates were there, giving me hugs and cheering. That was really cool.

How this prepared her for the future...
I really liked doing the slalom training days here, and got to work on some things with my coach, and I'm really working hard on that in the next couple weeks of the season. If I can qualify next year, I've done it before and have the experience. It's also cool to just compete with all the best athletes and see what the level is, and how it works.


Head Coach Gus MacLeod '02
On Day 3 at NCAAs...

I'm proud of these guys. It's great for the program, it's great for the alums to see, hopefully great for Saint Mike's itself to see. We keep getting better support from our alums, we get more and more people emailing and texting, saying that they're watching and noticing, and that's huge. It goes a long way with the athletes to know that it's not only people at school watching and care how they do, but it's this long line of alums from the '70s, from the '60s, that are on the computer and watching, and, "Hey, how did Saint Mike's Alpine do this year? What did they do this weekend?" That's huge.

Looking ahead...
We have a lot of talent within the guys and the women's. We have another month of training and racing to figure stuff out for next year, get some confidence at the end of the year here, and sort of help people get their point profiles down a little bit better and give them better starts for next year, and we'll go from there. And see who we can bring in for next year to keep the team like they are, because it's a great team. The team dynamic is awesome.

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