Today, Friday is a big day for University of Utah athletics.
On the State Capitol lawn in Salt Lake City the school is staging a “Utah Pac-12 Day Celebration,” as it enters the Pac-12 Conference.
The Utes were in the Western Athletic Conference (WAC), and most recently in the Mountain West Conference, but now they’ll join Colorado, Arizona, Arizona State, UCLA and USC in the South Division of the new Pacific 12-team loop.
It’s an exciting upgrade for Utes football fans, whereas Utah’s perennially tough men’s and women’s skiing teams are always used to battling for national championships with teams like the Colorado Buffs.
Take, for instance, the Utes Nordic skiing team coached by Ketchum’s Abi Holt, 33.
The daughter of Charlie and Lyn Holt was a three-time national junior champion and 17-time Junior All-American for the Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation’s Junior Nordic ski team. She was a two time team captain and four-year racer with All-American honors for DartmouthCollege.
Prior to coaching at Utah, Holt spent five years as Assistant Nordic Program Director and ski coach with the SVSEF, then was the first coach of the Hollyburn Ski Club in Vancouver, B.C., Canada. Her coaching career has reached 11 years.
This spring, she was named “Coach of the Year” for the western U.S. region.
Holt said last week, “I'm about to start my third season as the head coach of the Nordic Ski Team at the University of Utah and I couldn't be more excited to get going on this next season!”
She added, “In March of this year, Utah placed second in the women’s NCAA Nordic competition at Stowe, Vt. en route to second in the overall Alpine and Nordic combined totals behind Colorado.
“We ended last season with a second-place finish at NCAAs. That was our highest finish in several years, and we went into the season regarded as underdogs, so it was fun to slip in to that second place and surprise some people.
“But now, of course, the whole team has its eyes on the top of the podium. On the Nordic side, all but one of our NCAA skiers are returning. Our returning skiers include both Miles Havlick and Maria Graefnings, who were named Ski Racing Magazine's 2011 top Collegiate Nordic Racers of the year (male and female).
“Basically, we will head into this next season as legitimate contenders for the title; that's a real motivator through some tough months of training.
“Additionally, the University of Utah enters the Pac 12 athletic conference on July 1st, so it would be fun to be the first team on campus to deliver a Pac 12 national title.”