U.S. Alpine Championships | Gagnon edges Stiegler; Lila Lapanja top junior | TahoeDailyTribune.com

U.S. Alpine Championships | Gagnon edges Stiegler; Lila Lapanja top junior

Sylas Wright
Lila Lapanja of Incline Village finished third overall and first among juniors in the U.S. Alpine Championships slalom race at Squaw Valley on Saturday.
Courtesy Harry Lefrak / Lefrak Photography |

SQUAW VALLEY — Marie-Michele Gagnon, it seemed, tapped into her boyfriend’s hometown energy at Squaw Valley on Saturday.

The Canadian skier — girlfriend of Squaw Valley Olympian Travis Ganong — edged American Resi Stiegler by one-hundredth of a second to win the women’s slalom title in the final race of the U.S. Alpine Championships.

Skiing with confidence after recently winning the NorAm slalom title, Lila Lipanja of Incline Village finished third overall and first among junior competitors in front of one of the largest crowds in U.S. Championships history.

“Alongside my NorAm slalom title goal I had written that I wanted to win the U.S. National slalom race,” said Lapanja, who’s guaranteed a World Cup start next season. “This is my best finish at a U.S. Nationals ever. So I’m super happy with how I skied today. I put my whole heart out on the hill.”

Lapanja was followed by junior U.S. teammates Foreste Peterson of Berkeley and the Squaw Valley Ski Team and Paula Motzan, who placed fourth and sixth, respectively. Hailey Duke was fifth, while Olympic gold medalist Mikaela Shiffrin disqualified on her first run.

Like all the Tahoe-area skiers competing at the U.S. Alpine Championships, Lapanja had plenty of support in the finish area from family, friends and young fans.

“Both of my parents are out here. My mom’s mom is out here from Iowa and I have some cousins out from Minnesota cheering me on. I have so much support from the Diamond Peak Ski Team,” said Lapanja, who also trained at Sugar Bowl before graduating to the U.S. Ski Team’s Development Team. “There are so many younger girls who are here, and I’m so happy that they have a chance to come out and be inspired by amazing ski racing.”

Among other Tahoe skiers, Hannah Johnson finished 15th, Madeline Johnson was 17th and Francesca English 20th. Sierra Ryder also raced.

Chodounsky wins slalom

Olympian David Chodounsky produced a clutch final run to win the men’s U.S. Alpine Championships slalom title on Saturday.

Third after the first run, Chodounsky laced the bottom section of the Red Dog course to bump first-run leader Tim Kelley to second.

Will Brandenburg, who was fifth after the opening run, rounded out the podium in third.

Chodounsky was also the 2009 U.S. Champion in slalom and earned NCAA overall titles for 2005 and 2007 while he skied for Dartmouth.

Top junior honors went to U.S. Ski Team member Sandy Vietze, who finished ninth. Alex Leever and Tanner Mottau finished second and third among juniors and 13th and 14th overall.

Former Sugar Bowl skier Mark Engel, who recently won the NCAA giant slalom title for his University of Utah team, finished sixth, and Bryce Bennett out of Squaw Valley finished 10th. Among other Tahoe racers, Ty Sprock finished 17th, Garret Driller was 26th, Cody Wilson 28th and Jordan Cashman 30th.

Also racing were Marc Talbott, James Lebel, Riley Plant, Erik Arvidsson, Max Hall, Sean Higgins and Addison Dvoracek.

McJames wins FIS giant slalom

Two-time Olympian Megan McJames capped the Nature Valley U.S. Alpine Championships racing with an FIS giant slalom win on Sunday.

McJames won both runs to build up a 1.58-second victory over Stiegler. Anna Marno rounded out the top three.

Peterson finished fourth overall and took top junior honors, while Lapanja was sixth overall, Madeline Johnson 23rd, Hannah Johnson 28th, Ryder 29th and Julia Cashell 35th.

— The U.S. Ski Team contributed to this story.

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