Cone Wins GS National Title, Ski Teams Finish Eighth at NCAA Championship

Rob Cone won the NCAA title in the GS on Thursday (Dennis Curran).
Rob Cone won the NCAA title in the GS on Thursday (Dennis Curran).

Sophomore Rob Cone (Killington, Vt.) claimed the men's giant slalom national title on day two during the 2015 NCAA Skiing Championship as the Panthers ended the four-day event eighth overall as a team hosted by St. Lawrence University in Lake Placid, New York. The sophomore, also an All-American in 2011, becomes the first men's individual skiing champion to represent Middlebury atop the podium since Robert MacLeod took home the men's slalom title in 1989. The giant slalom races took place at Whiteface Mountain and the nordic events were held at Mt. Van Hoevenberg. Colorado won the title with 505 points, followed by Denver (478), Utah (471) and Middlebury in eighth place (230).

On Wednesday, the women's nordic race was dominated by the west, as it took the top 10 spots in the 5K freestyle race. Utah's Veronika Mayerhoffer took home the title with a time of 14:21.

Middlebury senior Heather Mooney (Peru, Vt.), who entered the event as the second-ranked skier in the east in freestyle events, unfortunately was ill and did not perform her best. She and classmate Stella Holt (Whitefish, Mont.) both have been under the weather all week. Holt finished the race in 34th place with a time of 15:56, while Mooney crossed the line in 16:10, good for 39th place.

The highlight for the Panther women was junior Kelsey Phinney (Boulder, Colo.), who turned in a solid finish for the Panthers, placing 20th overall and fourth among eastern racers with a time of 15:35. On the men's side, Middlebury sophomore Patrick McElravey (Tahoe City, Calif.) raced to a 27th-place finish in the 40-man race. Patrick Caldwell of Dartmouth captured the event with a time of 25:09, with the next eastern finisher not coming until sixth place. McElravey covered the course in 27:16 and was 11th among eastern racers at the event.

During day one of alpine events, Cone's performance, along with that of sophomore Christopher McKenna (West Hartford, Vt.), led the men's GS team to the national title in the event, despite having just two scorers.

Cone finished with a combined national championship time of 2:16.79, edging Denver's Sebastian Brigovic (2:17.22). He posted the fourth-fastest time in his first descent down the mountain in 1:10.21, and backed that up with the day's best run of 1:06.58 to clinch the title. With the victory, Cone stood at the apex of the podium for the fourth time this winter after claiming the GS title during the season's opening three carnivals.

McKenna sat right behind Cone after the first run with a mark of 1:10.56, and moved up two spots on the leaderboard with a second-run time of 1:07.40. That time was the third-best mark among all second runs behind only Cone and Utah's Endre Bjertness’ time of 1:06.94. The third-place finish earned McKenna All-American honors.

Middlebury’s third participant, rookie Riley Plant (Auburn, Calif.), was on pace for a top-10 first run, but fell nearing the finish line.

In the women's GS race, athletes from western schools claimed the top-five spots. The University of New Mexico's Mateja Robnik took home the title with a time of 2:22.56.

Senior Mary Sackbauer (Vail, Colo.) led the Panthers with a 13th-place finish, as she posted runs of 1:13.02 and 1:13.73 for a combined total of 2:26.75. Junior Elle Gilbert (Woodstock, Vt.) finished 17th, crossing the line in 1:14.44 during her first run, and bettering it with a time of 1:13.10 during run number two for a total of 2:27.54. Senior Katelyn Barclay (Pittsford, N.Y.) rounded out the Panther women's participants, falling on her second run down the mountain after stopping the clock in 1:15.56 during her first attempt.

The nordic classic events took main stage on Friday, with the women's 15K and the men's 20K races. The west owned the top six spots in the women's even, with Emilie Cedervaern of New Mexico taking home the title in 47:40. Phinney just missed out on All-American honors for the Panthers, finishing the race in 11th place with a time of 49:34, third among all eastern racers. Mooney and Holt were still recovering from illnesses, but both came on strong with solid performances. Mooney finished the event in 16th place overall, crossing the line in 49:49. The senior completes her stellar season with seven nordic race victories. Holt ended her season with a 30th-place effort in a 40-woman race, crossing the line in 52:32.

On the men's side, McElravey represented the Panther men in the 40-man 20K race. The sophomore nearly finished in the top half of the field, ending the race in 23rd with a time of 59:04. He was 10th among eastern racers.

After winning the national title in the giant slalom on Thursday, Cone repeated as an All-American on Saturday. On the women's side, Sackbauer also took home All-American honors.

Denver dominated the slalom, placing racers in second, third and fourth place. Dominique Garand of Vermont took home the title with a two-run time of 1:55.03. Cone sat in fifth place after one run and slipped to 10th with a combined time of 1:58.22 to earn All-American honors. Plant finished the event in 24th place, with his two runs totaling 2:01.76 on the afternoon. McKenna, who was third in Thursday's slalom race, missed a gate and had to hike during his first run, putting him out of contention. He did complete his second run and ended the event in 30th place in 2:23.99.

Denver's Monica Huebner took home the women's title, covering the course with a two-run combined time of 1:56.52. Sackbauer was in 12th place after the first run, but a solid second effort moved her up the rankings as she finished ninth overall with a time of 1:58.74. Barclay just edged her teammate Gilbert, placing 23rd with a two-run time of 2:02.25. Gilbert ended the event in 25th place covering the courses with a time of 2:03.07.

• Ski teams eighth at NCAA Championship