Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Mancuso, Ford lead the winners at U.S. Nationals

At Winter Park, Colo.

Julia Mancuso extended her national-record winning streak to 15 and Tommy Ford of Bend, Ore. captured two national titles and nearly a third during the 2012 Nature Valley U.S. Alpine Championships March 28-April 1 at Winter Park, Colo.

At nationals, the Western Region retained the Tom Garner Trophy with 2,738 points followed by the East with 1,429 and Rocky Central with 1,225. It was a sultry week at Winter Park, with temperatures in the 60s and soft snow dominating the weather.

NBC television will broadcast highlights of the national championships Saturday, April 7 at 1:30 p.m. Mountain Daylight Time. Men's and women's national downhill races were staged at Aspen, Colo. Feb. 15.

Busy week at nationals

On Saturday, Olympic gold medalist Mancuso, 28, of Squaw Valley, Ca. powered through exhaustingly soft snow at the Nature Valley U.S. Alpine Championships to take giant slalom gold and stretch her own national title record to 15.

Nineteen-year-old Norwegian Kristine Gjelsten Haugen was second ahead of 17-year-old Mikaela Shiffrin of Eagle/Vail, Colo. and Burke Mountain Academy. Anna Marno of Steamboat Springs, Colo. was third among juniors to conclude the week of women's racing in Winter Park.

It was Mancuso's fourth straight giant slalom title and sixth of her career. She also has four super G titles, four combined titles and one downhill.

Mancuso said, "I've got 10 years of experience on these girls (Haugen and Shiffrin), so it's kind of scary that they're giving me a run for my money. These girls are skiing fast and it's a highlight for young racers to ski well here and if I can help them get highlights it's even better for me."

World Cup overall champion Lindsey Vonn (Vail, CO) started the first run, but made an early exit after getting late into a hair pin turn.

Earlier in the sun-soaked week, on Wednesday, World Cup Rookie of the Year Shiffrin cracked open the U.S. Alpine Championships by defending her slalom gold. Shiffrin, who became the youngest U.S. Champion in history last season, won both runs as Hailey Duke (Boise, ID/Park City Ski Team) took silver and Kiley Staples (Park City, UT/Rowmark Academy) bronze.

Shiffrin said, "I love skiing in the U.S., winning a race is great, but to be able to drive home and sleep in my own bed is really comforting. I remember being one of the young kids running up to get an autograph from athletes like Lindsey Vonn or Sarah Schleper and I truly can't believe that kids are now looking for my autograph. I hope that I'm able to inspire them as much as the other girls on the U.S. Ski Team have inspired me.

"It was an amazing season. I hoped for podiums and top 10s in slalom this season and I'm really excited to continue skiing well in Winter Park. Hopefully I can put down some fast runs in giant slalom too. It's always so much fun to race in Colorado and this is a great way to end great World Cup season."

Said Hailey Duke, who grew up skiing in Sun Valley, "I raced in the ProAm yesterday with a nice group of J4/J5s and we ripped around probably five or six runs before we even raced. We actually raced pretty well too and came away with the silver.

"It reminded me about just having fun with skiing and I was thinking about that when I kicked out of the start today. I definitely had a smile when I went out of the start today. I started getting my feet back underneath me this year and this is a nice way to finish out the season."

On Friday, Mancuso landed a massive 1.2-second super G victory at the Nature Valley U.S. Alpine Championships Friday to extend her national title record to 14 in spring-like Winter Park. The silver went to Leanne Smith of North Conway, N.H. and the bronze to Laurenne Ross of Bend, Ore.

It was the fourth super G U.S. Championship gold medal of Mancuso's 12-year career with the U.S. Ski Team.

Mancuso said, "It's fun coming to nationals and it's fun to win races. Racing World Cup all the time you don't get to win all that many races so it's actually a really special feeling. Winning my 14th national title is pretty cool, but I'm going to race until I have 30."

The women's combined winner at nationals was Kiley Staples of Park City, her first national championship. Back in February at Aspen, Julia Ford won the women's national downhill title.

Men's winners at Winter Park

Tommy Ford, 23, of the Mt. Bachelor Sports Education Foundation won the men's slalom Thursday, added the combined title for his eighth national crown, and then narrowly missed another gold medal in Friday's super giant slalom.

Ford came within .04 of another gold medal as Canadian Dustin Cook squeaked the Nature Valley U.S. Alpine Championships super G title Friday in Winter Park. Young guns Brennan Rubie of Snowbird and Jared Goldberg of Holladay, Utah tied for third.

The Nature Valley U.S. Alpine Championships closed Sunday with men's giant slalom at Winter Park.

Robby Kelley of Starksboro, Vt. and Mt. Mansfield Ski and Snowboard Club become the latest "Skiing Cochran" to claim a national title by taking the giant slalom gold for his first national title.

Norwegians Espen Lysdahl and Leif Kristian Haugen finished 2-3 as temps soared into the mid-60s for a spring break atmosphere.

Kelley is of the famous "Skiing Cochrans" lineage. His mother Lindy is a 1976 Olympian and older siblings Tim and Jessica have also been members of the U.S. Ski Team. His cousin Jimmy Cochran of Keene, N.H. announced his retirement from the U.S. Ski Team Thursday and other cousin Ryan Cochran-Siegle is the junior world downhill and combined champion.

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