Alpine skiing sends three qualifiers to NCAA Championship for second straight year

Alpine skiing sends three qualifiers to NCAA Championship for second straight year

2017 NCAA Championship Alpine Skiing Schedule

Wednesday, March 8
Schedule change as of 3/7 at 3:11 p.m.
11 a.m. - Women's GS 1st Run
11:45 a.m. - Men's GS 1st Run
1:30 p.m. - Women's GS 2nd Run
2:15 p.m. - Men's GS 2nd Run

Friday, March 10
9 a.m. - Women's SL 1st Run
10 a.m. - Men's SL 1st Run
12:30 p.m. - Women's SL 2nd Run
1:15 p.m. - Men's SL 2nd Run

COLCHESTER, Vt. - A school-record-tying three Saint Michael's College skiers have qualified for the NCAA Championship for the second straight year, it was announced on Tuesday, as the trio of Alpine racers will take part in an event that involves student-athletes from Division I, II and III. Sophomore Guillaume Grand (La Plagne, France/Lycée Général Ferrié) makes his second appearance while junior Mathias Grimsrud (Stabekk, Norway/Donski Alpine) and first-year Anna Willassen (Jar, Norway/Persbråten VGS) make their NCAA debuts on March 8 and 10 at Cannon Mountain Ski Area in Franconia, N.H.

Seventy-four skiers from each gender will take part in Alpine and Nordic races at the national championship, with 34 female and 34 male Alpine skiers competing, including 16 apiece from the East Region. On March 8, the women's giant slalom begins at 9 a.m. before the men's competition starts at 12:30 p.m. Skiers return for the slalom on March 10, as the women start at 9 a.m. and the men at 10 a.m.

Grand becomes the fourth Purple Knight to ever qualify for multiple NCAA Championships, but the third to do so by his sophomore year, joining Keith Farnand '00 and Fredrik Sandell '15. A top-10 finisher during 21 of his 26 career starts, Grand took 12th in last year's NCAA Championship giant slalom out in Steamboat Springs, Colo., before claiming ninth during the slalom, becoming the first All-America skier in College history bv way of the top-10 placement. Both of his finishes were the best ever posted by a Purple Knight competitor at NCAAs. Thanks in part to taking second place in the slalom during each of the first three Eastern Intercollegiate Ski Association (EISA) carnivals this year, Grand earned EISA All-East accolades for the second consecutive winter.

Grimsrud qualifies a year after his brother, sophomore Torjus Grimsrud (Stabekk, Norway/Donski Alpine), claimed a spot at the meet. After injuries limited him to only two carnivals as an underclassman - the first two of the 2016 season - Mathias Grimsrud rebounded with four top-20 performances this season, including a career-high fifth during the slalom at the University of Vermont Carnival on Feb. 4. He was also 10th in that discipline during the Saint Lawrence University Carnival on Jan. 21.

Willassen becomes the seventh Purple Knight female to qualify for the NCAA Championship, but just the fourth Alpine skier, as junior Meggane Grand (La Plagne, France/Lycée des métiers Ambroise Croizat) competed as recently as last winter. Megan McCarthy '05 (2002) and Kara Woods '89 (1988) also took part in the national meet. In her debut season, Willassen was in the top 20 six times, including a three-week run of top-10 GS performances. After reaching the podium with a second-place finish at UVM on Feb. 3, she was sixth at Dartmouth College on Feb. 10 and 10th at Middlebury College on Feb. 18. Willassen is the seventh first-year Saint Michael's skier to ever qualify for nationals, joining McCarthy as the lone Alpine women to do so.

The University of New Hampshire held an EISA carnival at Cannon on Jan. 27-28, when Grand was seventh in the GS (2:17.54) and second during the slalom (1:46.70). Grimsrud took 26th during the GS (2:21.47) but didn't finish his first slalom run, while Willassen claimed 11th in the GS (2:23.43) and 23rd in the slalom (2:10.62).

With Grimsrud and Willassen qualifying, Saint Michael's will now have Norwegian representatives at the NCAA Championship for the sixth time in sixth years, after Fredrik Sandell '15 qualified three times and Torjus Grimsrud took part last season. Meanwhile, seven of the eight Saint Michael's male skiers to qualify for nationals have now been Alpine representatives.

Multiple skiers had represented Saint Michael's 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, but neither discipline had ever sent multiple racers to the same national meet prior to the Grand siblings and Torjus Grimsrud competing in 2016. That trio single-handedly put the Purple Knights in 15th place among 21 teams with 50 points, the program's highest NCAA finish since taking 13th out of 15 in 1988, while the points were a school record.

Seven of the 15 qualifiers in program history have now come during Gus MacLeod's '02 seven-year tenure as Alpine head coach, with those seven accounting for 10 qualifications. MacLeod was named EISA Alpine Skiing Coach of the Year over the weekend, becoming the second skiing coach in College history to land a conference honor. MacLeod's charges podiumed four times while claiming 16 top-10 individual showings this winter, and his men won the slalom at the UVM Carnival.

While the Purple Knights will send three competitors to the NCAA Championship, just as many only narrowly fell short of qualifying. Meggane Grand and first-year Emilia Laffin (Chamonix, France/Lycée du Mont-Blanc René Dayve) are among the first five women to miss the cut, while sophomore Danny Duffy (Warren, Vt./Green Mountain Valley School) barely fell shy on the men's side. In all, 14 different Purple Knights - eight women, six men - earned NCAA points this winter by placing among the top 30 in a race.

The NCAA Championship will be webcast live on NCAA.com/liveschedule. Complete multimedia links will be available through SMCAthletics.com.