NCAA Alpine skiers earn cash prizes under the lights of Holiday Classic at Steamboat's Howelsen Hill | SteamboatToday.com

NCAA Alpine skiers earn cash prizes under the lights of Holiday Classic at Steamboat’s Howelsen Hill

University of New Mexico skier Rebecca Fiegl, of Austria, won the first night of the Murphy Roberts Holiday Classic with a combined time of 1 minute, 21.02 seconds on Friday, Dec. 21, at Howelsen Hill. (Photo by Leah Vann)

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — The daytime laps are routine, but there’s something about the nighttime race that heightens an already high-pressured atmosphere at the Murphy Roberts Holiday Classic.

University of New Mexico skier Rebecca Fiegl and U.S. Ski Team member Keely Cashman were the only two women to break 40 seconds in the opening rounds, and Fiegl had edged her out by a 0.07-second margin.

The stage was set for the ultimate battle for the $2,000 grand prize, but Cashman caught an edge and fell at the top of her second run under the lights.

Cash prize winners

1. Rebecca Fiegl, Austria, $2,000
2. Nora Greg Christensen, Norway, $1,000
3. Tuva Norbye, Norway, $500
4. Erin Linnea Engeset, Norway, $125
5. Tegan Wold, USA, $125

Fiegl glided down Howelsen Hill with ease as the announcer yelled, “This could be the $2,000 run! Make some noise!”

She brushed away a blanket of powder into the crowd after crossing the finish line in 41.73 seconds, the third-fastest second run of the night and good enough to earn her the first-place prize.

Being seeded first for the second run was difficult, being the 30th person to carve the course. She was wary of the terrain at the top, which knocked Cashman out of contention.

But she used her strong finish to her advantage.

“I usually ski the lower pitch good. I try to make that my time,” Fiegl said. “The top was a little chunky with the tracks — thought I was going to go out, but glad that I made it.”

The 23-year-old sophomore placed in the top 10 three times at Howelsen Hill during NCAA National Championship competition in March, earning her a spot as second-team All-American.

“Last year, I was here for the NCAAs, and I got All-American on this hill,” Fiegl said. “It’s steep, and the atmosphere is amazing. I just like when the lights are on. It’s dark everywhere. At the top you see Steamboat, the other hill.”

Born in Austria, Fiegl is trying to make her home country’s national team. The cash prize will help with the cost of her FIS NorAm races. She came to the U.S. to train with the University of New Mexico ski team at the advice of her coach.

When she crossed the finish and lifted her arms in celebration of her win, her teammates were there to celebrate with her. It’s the team camaraderie she’s never experienced before in Austria.

“I talked to a few people from Europe, and they said it was amazing,” Fiegl said. “One of my old coaches came from the (University of New Mexico) Lobos, and he said it’s a good experience, and he would do it again.”

The Holiday Classic offers a cash prize, which isn’t usually the case for NCAA athletes. Howelsen Hill also is known as one of the steeper hills to race, where athletes can work on their technique and race at their hardest.

Fiegl scheduled her Christmas vacation around the Holiday Classic, meaning she’ll spend less time at home in Austria. She’ll board a plane to Europe on Sunday, then fly back to New Mexico on New Year’s Eve, just three days before her training resumes.

She heads into Day 2 of competition with a cash prize, hoping to win more.

Dilling takes men’s title by narrow margin

The top three finishers of the men’s race were separated by a total margin of seven-hundredths of a second.

The snow flurries multiplied as the men took the course. The first three top-10 contenders — standing at 10th, eighth and seventh places — would tumble at the top of the slope before the announcers could say their names.

Steamboat Springs-native and University of Denver ski team member Jett Seymour had secured first place on his second run with the fourth-fastest second-run time of 39.17 seconds, but his earlier run of 41.13 wasn’t enough to edge out Jacob Dilling.

Cash prize winners

1. Jacob Dilling, USA, $2,000
2. Jett Seymour, USA, $1,000
3. Jimmy Krupka, USA, $500
4. Joonas Rasanen, Finland, $125
5. Alex Leever, USA, $125

Dilling notched a 39.36, seventh-best on the second run, but his first run time of 40.90 was enough to propel him to victory with a 1:20.26 combined time over Seymour’s 1:20.30.

“I was really nervous at the start,” Dilling said. “The last five seconds before, my mind just went blank.”

The 19 year-old Vail-native skis for Opportunity Racing, a new, smaller club without a base that travels across the U.S. to train.

Dilling said he has skied at Howelsen Hill too many times to count.

“I just like how it’s steep the whole way. It’s like a sprint,” Dilling said. “I did the Holiday Classic last year. I didn’t do that great, maybe 15th.”

His performance at the Holiday Classic gives him the confidence he needs entering ski season and shows that his hard work during the summer made a difference. He hopes to be a top contender at the World Junior Championships, not just there to ski.

“I can always just remember this, and then it’ll help me overcome,” Dilling said.

To reach Leah Vann, call 970-871-4253, email lvann@SteamboatPilot.com or follow her on Twitter @LVann_Sports.

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