LAKE PLACID, N.Y. - Saint Michael's College Alpine skiing senior Fredrik Sandell (Oslo, Norway/Donski Alpine) placed 19th during the giant slalom on Thursday at the NCAA Championship, the best giant slalom performance ever by a Purple Knight male at the national meet.
Sandell is one of 34 male Alpine skiers from Division I, II and III to qualify for the NCAA Championship, which is taking place on Whiteface Mountain, a venue used during the 1980 Winter Olympics. Sandell's final college race, the slalom, will begin on Saturday at 9 a.m. This year's NCAA Championship is hosted by Saint Lawrence University and the Olympic Regional Development Authority, and can be viewed live at NCAA.com. Complete multimedia links are available through SMCAthletics.com.
Sandell, one of 16 competitors from the East region, joined four-time qualifier Keith Farnand '00 as the lone Purple Knights to ever partake more than twice at the national championship, as Sandell qualified in 2012 to compete in Montana and in 2013 to travel down to Middlebury College. His 19th-place showing on Thursday bettered his previous best at NCAAs, a 21st-place finish in the 2012 slalom, and was seven spots higher than his prior PR in an NCAA giant slalom, also recorded in his debut championship.
"To be honest, I really didn't expect [to qualify for NCAAs this year] because of the injury I had, and how late I had the surgery," said Sandell of an injury during his junior year that was repaired this past offseason. "I kind of took this year as just having fun and just going with it, so I was surprised, but I was really, really proud and happy to make it back here. It's a good experience."
The 25th starter in the event, Sandell clocked in at 1:11.84 during his opening run to stand 14th midway through the competition. With an improvement of 1.89 seconds in his second trek, Sandell finished in 1:09.95 to post a cumulative time of 2:21.79, leaving him 19th, but just 0.32 seconds shy of 16th place. The 15th-place finisher was only 0.96 ticks faster than Sandell. Among competitors from the East, Sandell was ninth.
"My first run was a good run," said Sandell. "The first-run course was difficult, and I was just going for it. I don't really know what happened in the second run, but I was a little bit slower than people around me, so I moved back a little bit, but I'm happy with a 19th; can't really complain about that."
The previous best showing by a Saint Michael's male Alpine skier in an NCAA Championship giant slalom was 25th place by Farnand in 2000. Farnand's 13th-place finish in the 1998 slalom is the only performance in either discipline to ever top Sandell's 19th-place showing, which matched slalom finishes recorded by Brad Harden '10 in 2009 and junior Brad Farrell (West Windsor, Vt./Sharon Academy) last spring.
Sandell's top-20 finish was his eighth in 2015, and the 27th of his career. He gave Saint Michael's an NCAA selection for the sixth time in seven years, and single-handedly has the Purple Knights sitting 15th among 23 institutions after day two of the four-day championship, which includes Alpine and Nordic skiers alike, with 12 points. The Purple and Gold was among the top 20 as a team during four of its past five appearances.
Sandell said his teammates and coaches saw him through the day, and more Purple Knights will make the two-hour trip to support him on Saturday. "I had a couple guys coming today, and I heard a couple more are coming on Saturday, so that's awesome," he said. "It means a lot to have the team around. We have a great atmosphere in the team, so it's really good to have the teammates around."