Tahoe skier Julia Mancuso wins third U.S. giant slalom title | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Tahoe skier Julia Mancuso wins third U.S. giant slalom title

U.S. Ski Team reports

ALYESKA, ALASKA ” Olympic giant slalom champion Julia Mancuso of Olympic Valley, Lake Tahoe earned the third national giant slalom title of her career Monday, striking gold on the final day of women’s competition at the Nature Valley U.S. Alpine Championships.

Stacey Cook, a Truckee native who now skis out of Mammoth Mountain, took fourth place while Sugar Bowl product Katie Hitchcock finished fifth.

Mancuso, who arrived early Saturday morning on a red-eye flight from her home in Maui, Hawaii, was hampered with the flu before landing in Alaska, yet also captured the combined title by skiing to second in the downhill and third in slalom. She now has 10 U.S. championship victories with title wins in every discipline but slalom.

“I’m pretty tired, but it feels good to be on podium,” said Mancuso, who also won GS titles in 2003 and ’05. “U.S. champs is such a great event to come to because it’s always a lot of fun to see everyone and there isn’t too much pressure.”

U.S. Ski Team women’s Head Coach Jim Tracy was impressed with Mancuso’s performance.

“Julia did a super good job today, both physically and mentally,” Tracy said. “She came in here sick, then we had all the new snow and all the delays and she still went out there and charged. All the women did and I’m really proud of the racing I saw out of this Team.”

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Another foot of fresh snow fell overnight at Alyeska and then continued throughout the day creating yet another race with incredibly challenging conditions for the athletes.

“I didn’t bring fat enough skis for all this powder,” said Mancuso, who now heads to Verbier, Switzerland, for a celebrity ski event along with Lindsey Vonn (Vail, Colo.). “It snowed at least a foot and a half last night, but they groomed really late into the night so it wasn’t too bad for the race, just a really rough base that got pretty bumpy.”

Despite the bumpy track, Megan McJames (Park City, Utah) earned her career first U.S. champs podium with second, while Keely Kelleher (Big Sky, Mont.), who was on the combined podium last season, finished third. Julia Ford (Plymouth, N.H.) ended the day in seventh to earn the top junior honor for the second day in a row.

“Today was all about staying light on you skis, but still being aggressive through the terrain and bumps,” said McJames, who set a World Cup personal best earlier this season with 14th in the GS at Soelden, Austria. “The amount of snow that’s fallen here is amazing, but Alyeska has done such a great job working on the hill so we can race, plus the powder skiing has been awesome. It was a fun week.

Sitting third after the first run, McJames put down the fastest second run to move into the lead. But Mancuso, running just after McJames, nailed another solid run to take over the lead by .15 seconds. Kelleher, whose top finishes have been in speed events, was the next closest competitor at 1.29 seconds behind McJames.

Sarah Schleper (Vail, Colo.) was leading the race after the first run, but fell on the lower portion of the course during her second run suffering a concussion. According to U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association Medical Director Richard Quincy, she was taken off the hill by sled to follow proper medical protocol and is doing fine.

“Sarah had a great first run and was really going for it, but she hooked a tip in the flats,” said Tracy. “She’s bumming, but she’s strong and will get over it. It was great to see her charging and Keely did a great job too. She didn’t race yesterday because she was really sick, but came out here full guns today.”

Action from the Nature Valley U.S. Alpine Championships concludes Tuesday with men’s giant slalom.

Women

1. Julia Mancuso, Olympic Valley, CA, 2:12.62

2. Megan McJames, Park City, UT, 2:12.77

3. Keely Kelleher, Big Sky, MT, 2:14.06

4. Stacey Cook, Mammoth, CA, 2:14.44

5. Katie Hitchcock, Sugar Bowl, CA, 2:14.50

Women’s Juniors

1. Julia Ford, Plymouth, NH, 2:15.15

2. Angel Collinson, Sandy, UT, 2:16:30

3. Alice McKennis, Glenwood Springs, CO, 2:16.30

4. Kara Shaw, Norwich, VT, 2:17.17

5. Anna Marno, Steamboat Springs, CO, 2:17.20