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Freshman skier captures national title for Yotes

College of Idaho freshman Caroline Sanden Gustafsson won a national championship and was named the Northwest Collegiate Ski Conference Skier of the Year—not bad for someone who first set foot on the C of I campus in January.

Sanden Gustafsson wanted to go to a school where she could ski and receive a top-notch education. And it’s been so far, so good for the Orebro, Sweden native.

“Coming in without expectations—sight unseen for all parties—I think she really stepped up and took the challenge that was presented to her and made the most of it,” C of I ski coach Ron Bonneau said.

Making the most of it included winning a USCSA national title in skier cross and posting a second-place finish in the slalom—the best alpine finish by a Coyote skier in 25 years. Sanden Gustafsson didn’t even know she would be competing in skier cross until the team arrived for nationals at Mount Bachelor, Ore. The day before the race, she joked with a fellow Swede from Rocky Mountain College about winning it.

“I said, ‘Tomorrow we are winning skier cross!’ ” Sanden Gustafsson said. “And her coach said ‘Girls, you two are the smallest ones out there, you will never be able to win this.’ ”

As it turned out, the Rocky Mountain coach was right about his own skier. But Sanden Gustafsson turned in a day of consistent performance and won the four-skier final using a tactical move around the first turn to take a lead she would never relinquish. She became the 11th C of I skier to win a USCSA national championship, capturing the program’s 21st individual national title overall.

“I never thought it’d be that good,” Sanden Gustafsson said. “It was a shock to me.”

While Sanden Gustafsson dominated the headlines, the C of I men’s team placed eighth at nationals, its best finish since 2009.

“The team was very consistent,” said junior Zach Gould, the men’s team captain. “Brady Nilsson was right behind me the entire season and Lucas Underkoffler, he slayed it, especially at Nationals.”

Underkoffler earned All-America honors in both the slalom and the alpine combined. His fourth-place finish in the slalom was the best by a Coyote skier since 1991. 

Founded in 1891, The College of Idaho is the state’s oldest private liberal arts college. The C of I has a legacy of academic excellence, a winning athletics tradition and a history of producing successful graduates, including seven Rhodes Scholars and 14 Marshall, Truman and Goldwater Scholars. The College’s close-knit, residential campus is located in Caldwell. Its distinctive PEAK Curriculum challenges students to attain competency in the four knowledge peaks of the humanities, natural sciences, social sciences and a professional field—empowering them to earn a major and three minors in four years. For more information, visit www.collegeofidaho.edu.