Mendes Wins GS
BIG MOUNTAIN, Mont. – A wide-smiling but admittedly bewildered Jonna Mendes of Heavenly had the fastest time on each run Tuesday and collected her first national title.
Mendes won the GS, an event that she doesn’t race regularly. The 21-year-old won the GS by 1.75 seconds on the fifth day of the Chevy Truck U.S. Alpine Championships.
“This is a total surprise,” Mendes said as she stood in the finish area, still shaking her head several minutes later. “I am so-o-o excited.
“Today I didn’t have a whole lot of expectations for myself and a podium definitely would be thrilling, and the top step of the podium is unreal.”
Mendes, who won the Hungarian national title two years ago, held a .77 lead over Sarah Schleper of Vail, Colo., after the first run and went on to win in 2:22.05.
“I really wanted a national title in speed because I’ve been so close for so many years,” said Mendes, who was second Sunday in super-G after being third Friday in the downhill. “Three or four years now I’ve podiumed in the speed events.
“I knew I could do it. I knew it was a possibility even though I wasn’t very happy with my second and third place,” she went on. “A national title is something I’ve never had and not a lot of people get an opportunity to say they’re the national champion. It’s awesome – it’s totally unexpected, but I’m loving it.”
Kirsten Clark of Raymond, Maine, who won her fourth straight downhill title Friday at Big Mountain, was silver medalist in 2:23.80 with Julia Mancuso of Tahoe City taking the bronze medal (2:24.25).
Completing the top five were Kristina Koznick of Burnsville, Minn., in fourth and Swedish star Pernilla Wiberg, the 1992 Olympic GS champion, fifth.
Schleper lost a ski about eight gates from the finish and was a DNF.
Because she hasn’t raced a lot of GS this season, Mendes said she didn’t have great expectations coming into the race. As with the downhill and super-G, her race plan was to attack.
“If I just go out of the gate and charge as hard as I possibly can all the way down to th finish line, no matter what the outcome, I have to be content that I gave it everything. That was my game plan today, to charge as hard as I could, and I did, for sure.”
Clark was smiling, too.
“This is a great way to end it, being on the podium for downhill, super-G and GS,” she said.
However, she said she would skip the slalom Wednesday – and a chance for the combined title.
“I’m pretty tired now. It’s been a long season, so for me to start slalom without any training, I didn’t see any reason to do that,” Clark said.
Mancuso, the top junior for the third straight race, said she was amazed at the solid condition of the course, considering the rain Sunday and Monday plus 35-degree temperatures.
“I wasn’t thinking so much about the snow. I had a pretty good focus for my second run, and I was thinking about going fast to the bottom,” she said.
“It was pretty much my goal for nationals to be solid on every run, and so far it’s been pretty good. Mission accomplished, so far.”
She was fifth in the downhill behind Clark, fourth behind Wiberg in super-G.
“Fifth … fourth … third,” she said with a shy grin. “And tomorrow? Hmmmm…maybe…”
Rain washed out the men’s GS. The nationals will conclude today with the men’s and women’s slalom.
CHEVY TRUCK U.S. ALPINE CHAMPIONSHIPS
Big Mountain, MT – March 27
1. Jonna Mendes, Heavenly, 2:22.05
2. Kirsten Clark, Raymond, Maine, 2:23.80
3. Julia Mancuso, Olympic Valley, 2:24.25
4. Kristina Koznick, Burnsville, Minn., 2:24.36
5. Pernilla Wiberg, Sweden, 2:25.09
6. Courtney Calise, Littleton, N.H., 2:25.84
7. Erika Hansson, Sweden, 2:26.34
8. Megan Hughes, Killington, Vt., 2:26.64
9. Jessica Kelley, Starksboro, Vt., 2:26.73
10. Alex Munteanu, Rumania, 2:27.28
11. Erica MacConnell, Amherst, Mass. 2:27.31
12. Christin Lathrop, North Conway, N.H., 2:27.50
13. Lauren Ross, Stowe, Vt., 2:27.68
14. Rachel Roosevelt, Storrs, Conn., 2:27.81
15. Mia Cullman, Vail, Colo., 2:28.04
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