Two prospects from the U.S. Ski Team were killed in an avalanche Monday while skiing near their European training base in the Austrian Alps.

The team said Ronnie Berlack, 20, and Bryce Astle, 19, died in the incident near the Rettenbach glacier in the mountains over Soelden, the venue for the annual season-opening World Cup races.

Berlack, from Franconia, N.H., and Astle, from Sandy, Utah, were part of a group of six skiers who were descending from the 3,056-meter Gaislachkogel when they left the prepared slope and apparently set off the avalanche. The other four skied out of the slide and escaped unhurt.

Officials in the Tyrolean region said an avalanche alert had been declared for the area after days of heavy snowfall and mild temperatures.

"Ronnie and Bryce were both outstanding ski racers who were passionate about their sport — both on the race course and skiing the mountain," U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association President and CEO Tiger Shaw said. "Our hearts go out to the Berlack and Astle families, as well as to their extended sport family."

The tragedy has left the U.S. Ski Team "in shock," Alpine director Patrick Riml told the Associated Press in Croatia, Zagreb, where the American slalom team was preparing for a World Cup race on Tuesday.

Riml said the athletes were free to decide whether they still wanted to compete in Tuesday's night race, adding the team planned to wear mourning bands.

"We are all very close," said Riml, an Austrian who was born and grew up in Soelden. … "It's a shock for everybody."


Sparks hire ex-Lynx coach Agler

Brian Agler is very familiar with how talented the Los Angeles Sparks are, having coached against them for so many years.

Now he will get a chance to lead them. Agler was announced as the new coach of the Sparks, taking over a team led by stars such as Candace Parker and Nneka Ogwumike.

"It's a great opportunity and I know that I'm leaving a really tremendous organization from top to bottom from ownership to front office to players and fans," Agler said in a phone interview with the Associated Press.

The 56-year-old coach had been with Seattle since 2008 and guided the team to the WNBA championship in 2010. Agler also was coach of the Lynx from 1999 to 2002.

"I had a great desire to stay in Seattle and I know that all franchises are in different stages," he said. "Seattle's in a rebuilding mode right now and I wanted to see it through. But sometimes things don't work out that way, sometimes it's just time."

Agler will get an early look at his former team — the Sparks open the season at Seattle June 6.

Sparks General Manager Penny Toler fired coach Carol Ross midway through last season and took over the coaching duties herself. Toler said at the time she wasn't interested in being the permanent choice as head coach.


Soccer: FIFA Vice President Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein of Jordan will stand for election in a bid to oust Sepp Blatter as leader of the sport's scandal-hit world governing body. The 39-year-old Prince Ali declared his intention to stand as a candidate in the FIFA presidential election on May 29 in Zurich, where Blatter has pledged to seek a fifth mandate at age 79. During Blatter's 17-year leadership, FIFA has been rocked by bribery allegations, kickbacks paid and ticket scams.

Colleges: Shane Lyons is West Virginia's new athletic director, leaving his job at Alabama to succeed Oliver Luck. Lyons, a Parkersburg, W.Va., native, has been deputy athletic director at Alabama since 2011.

Auto racing: Jean-Pierre Beltoise, a former Formula One driver who won the Monaco Grand Prix in 1972, died after a double stroke at his vacation home in Dakar, Senegal. He was 77.