Wilson takes 2nd at NCAA championshpsRyan Wilson struggled this season for the University of Utah men’s alpine skiing team.
By: Chris Harrell, The Republican Eagle
Ryan Wilson struggled this season for the University of Utah men’s alpine skiing team.
The warm winter created poor skiing conditions and Ryan, a top U.S. giant slalom skier and graduate from Red Wing High School, said he had one of his most trying seasons.
“We’ve had terrible, terrible weather,” he said. “For our races, we want a hard, cold surface. We just had terrible conditions. It was a frustrating year.”
But in the final month of the regular season Ryan found a groove, winning the giant slalom at the NCAA West Region/Rocky Mountain Intercollegiate Ski Association Championships hosted by Montana State University in Bozeman, Mont., Feb. 24-25. He followed that victory with a second-place finish in the giant slalom at the 2012 NCAA Championships March 7-10 on the same course.
“If you’d asked me two weeks before if I’d be on the podium, I’d be very surprised if you said I’d be second,” Ryan, a junior, said. “It was really good to get a win there 10 days before the championships. Obviously that gives you a lot of confidence.”
Ryan, 24, was in first place after the first run last year at the NCAA Championships before finishing third.
This time, Ryan said he took the first run conservatively and was comfortable sitting in fourth place.
“I felt really good, really confident knowing I was on the podium last year,” he said. “I really gave it everything I had in the second run. I was super confident coming across the finish line.”
Ryan said that while the course was a little soft, the weather was also favorable for one of the few times all season.
“It was super warm,” he said. “Probably the best racing conditions we had all year. The sun was shining for only about the third time all year. That fires you up to. When it’s nice out, it’s a lot more fun.”
Ryan finished with a time of 1 minutes, 32.87 seconds while his teammate and roommate, Nick Cohee, grabbed third place in 1:32.99. The second-place finish gave Wilson his second consecutive selection as Men’s Giant Slalom First Team All-American.
Adam Zika, of the Czech Republic, won the race in a time of 1:31.80 for the University of Colorado-Boulder.
As a team, the Utes came in second place out of 21 teams at the championships but garnered the most points in the giant slalom.
“It was a very exciting race,” Scott Wilson, Ryan’s dad, said. “The team was undefeated this year and was probably the favorites … (Ryan) skied really well.”
Ryan, who tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee his freshman year at Utah, said the tough stretch during the middle of the season caused him to question his abilities at times. But winning the West Regional championship was a crucial step leading to his success at the NCAA Championships.
“Once we had regionals on that hill and I won, I wasn’t that surprised,” he said of coming in second place. “You’re kind of always questioning if you’re as fast as you used to be. It’s just going in there thinking you’re the best guy.”
After his runner-up race, Ryan is the top American skier in the college ranks. He didn’t finish first, but luck plays a role in ending on the podium and one small mistake can make or break a race, he said. With so little time separating the top competitors, he’s not worried about making any significant improvements.
“In ski racing, when it’s decided by hundredths of a second, I don’t think there’s a lot of skiing improvements that need to be made,” Ryan said. “It’s confidence. You just know you’re ready to race.”
Next up, Ryan will take part in the 2012 Nature Valley U.S. Alpine Championships March 28-April 1 in Winter Park, Colo.