SQUAW VALLEY — With an American record 15 national titles to her name, Julia Mancuso was a safe bet to add to her collection in the Nature Valley U.S. Alpine Championships at Squaw Valley this week.
After all, the Olympic gold medalist and Squaw Valley Ski Team prodigy grew up ripping the slopes of the host site.
Mancuso did not disappoint her hometown fans in the opening giant slalom race, as she finished .88 seconds in front of the red-hot Mikaela Shiffrin to earn her 16th U.S. title under blue-bird skies Thursday.
“It’s very fun to be at my home mountain and, of course, I want to win here,” Mancuso said after posting a two-run combined time of 1:39.50, compared to Shiffrin’s 1:40.38. “I think that’s the cool thing about records, even if it’s something like U.S. Championships; when you are kind of pushing for something or extending a record, it makes it that much more fun.”
NorAm champion Megan McJames was third and Truckee native Stacey Cook, a downhill specialist, was fourth. Shiffrin, who had recently secured the World Cup slalom title, was the top junior racer.
Squaw Valley Ski Team product Foreste Peterson finished third among juniors and seventh overall, in 1:43.83, while Lila Lapanja, a former member of the Sugar Bowl and Diamond Peak ski teams, was the fourth junior and eighth overall in 1:44.09.
Other local racers included Lena Andrews (27th), Julia Bjorkman (34th), Nicolette Caravelli (40th) and Morganne Murphy (41st).
Tim Jitloff wins men’s GS
Truckee High grad Tim Jitloff also took advantage of the home snow, as he boosted his U.S. titles count to four with a victory in the men’s GS.
Defending champ Robby Kelley took second and Seppi Stiegler was third, while Kieffer Christianson was the top junior.
Jitloff posted a winning time of 1:44.81 between his two runs, to Kelley’s 1:45.69.
“It was challenging for sure, but I grew up racing on this hill, so I know what’s going on,” Jitloff said. “For me this is just a lot of fun, so it’s really a weight off the shoulder if you can go and just enjoy yourself. That’s what it was today. It felt good to kind of reel back the years a little bit on home turf. It was nice.”
Incline Village native Sean Higgins finished ninth, Kirkwood product Nick Cohee was 10th, and Sugar Bowl Academy grad Mark Engel was 12th.
Squaw Valley racer Bryce Bennett was third among juniors and 20th overall. Other local racers who competed include Nick Daniels (24th), Garrett Driller (31st), Ty Sprock (32nd), Dylan Brooks (35th), Thomas Robles (39th), Addison Dvoracek (40th), Hughston Norton (45th), Erik Arvidsson (50th), Cody Wilson and Max Hall.
The U.S. Alpine Championships originally were scheduled to begin Wednesday with the women’s GS, but officials postponed the event a day due to stormy weather.
NBC will air a special Nature Valley U.S. Alpine Championships show on March 24 at 9 a.m.
The U.S. Ski Team contributed to this report.