SQUAW VALLEY — Five years had come and gone since anyone not named Julia Mancuso claimed the women’s national giant slalom title.
It was only fitting that rising U.S. star Mikaela Shiffrin, fresh off an Olympic gold medal and second straight World Cup slalom title, dethroned the reigning champ from Squaw Valley.
The 19-year-old Shiffrin blazed down a firm and steep Red Dog course at Squaw Valley on Thursday to win the the GS title by a 1.88-second margin on the first day of the U.S. Alpine Championships. Canadian Marie-Michelle Gagnon finished second and Mancuso third.
“It was probably the toughest hill we’ve skied all year,” Shiffrin said. “It has a lot of terrain and the whole thing is pretty steep. So it was really cool to end on this hill. I made some good turns, but I also felt the turns where I could have improved, so I know what I want to do with my next training session.”
The U.S. title was the third of Shiffrin’s career, as she won the slalom in 2011 and 2012. She left little doubt Thursday, posting the fastest time in both of her runs among a field of 60 skiers.
Mancuso, who had won the GS title every year since 2009, jumped from ninth after her first run to third with a solid second run. She recorded a combined time of 2:34.33, compared to Shiffrin’s 2:30.93 and Gagnon’s 2:32.81.
“The snow was pretty tough the first run, so I wanted to just have a good run. I’ve been having a little bit of problems with my hips, so the end of the season I was definitely tired,” Mancuso said. “I just found a little bit of energy for second run, so for sure it was better.”
Shiffrin also claimed top junior honors, while U.S. Development Team athlete Foreste Peterson of Squaw Valley finished fourth and Paula Moltzan of Lakeville, Minn., was fifth.
A number of racers from the Lake Tahoe and Truckee area also fared well.
Incline Village native Lila Lapanja, who raced for the Sugar Bowl and Diamond Peak ski teams and recently won the overall NorAm slalom title, finished eighth. Truckee native Stacey Cook finished 12th, Sierra Ryder was 33rd and Francesca English 37th. Hannah Johnson and Madeline Johnson did not finish.
“It was a lot of fun to be here and see all the girls racing and having fun,” Mancuso said. “I think that’s the most important thing. Nationals are about also skiing with the legends but having fun. It’s pretty cool that we can race nationals on Red Dog. This is a really challenging hill.”
NBC will broadcast a Nature Valley U.S. Alpine Championships special on Sunday starting at 9 a.m.
— The U.S. Ski Team contributed to this story.