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Thornhill tops in NCAA skiing

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Whistler skier and University of Utah freshman Ben Thornhill was the difference in capturing the Utes’ first NCAA title in four seasons.

Facing the top 35 athletes from 22 different colleges, including former national team level skiers, Thornhill came through and won the giant slalom title. He followed up with a solid 17 th place finish in the slalom to lead the Utes to their 11 th NCAA title.

"We won by the largest margin ever," said Thornhill. "Our team was pretty awesome and we really came together at the end."

Other teammates helped out with top-10 finishes of their own, and some of the members of the women’s team landed on the podium as well.

"I was pretty surprised by the quality of the racing," said Thornhill of his rookie season. "I didn’t know what to expect, but there are some really good skiers out there. My whole team is ex-national team skiers, from the Swiss team, from Slovenia, from the U.S., from Australia. Every team pretty much has great skiers from all over the world."

Thornhill, 19, was a member of the Canadian national development team until last year, when he left to pursue other interests.

"I just lost the love of skiing, really. I just wasn’t having a good time anymore, and I really wanted to go to school, ski for myself and have fun again," he said.

Thornhill found the Utes team a perfect fit, and is enjoying the school aspect as well. He’s currently majoring in business, and has three more years of classes and skiing at the NCAA level.

While skiing can’t compete with basketball, football and baseball, he says the team was recognized at a basketball game, and was cheered by an entire arena of fans.

"We’re not the heroes or anything, but that was pretty cool," Thornhill said.

Thornhill is only one of many Whistler athletes in skiing, hockey and golf to receive scholarships to U.S. schools.

Thornhill was back in Whistler this week for spring break to catch up with his old teammates at the Pontiac GMC Canadian Nationals. He was tempted to race, but decided against it.

"I’m really happy where I am right now, and I have other goals. I still love it and I’m really enjoying my skiing, but I know if I took it up again at this level I wouldn’t enjoy it as much," he said.

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