Squaw’s Ganong finishes 10th in final World Cup downhill, Bennett ends year seventh in downhill standings | SierraSun.com

Squaw’s Ganong finishes 10th in final World Cup downhill, Bennett ends year seventh in downhill standings

2018-19 U.S. Alpine Ski Team Photo: U.S. Ski & Snowboard

Squaw Valley's Travis Ganong has put together his best skiing of the year as the International Ski Federation World Cup season nears its conclusion, claiming 10th in the final downhill and 13th in last super-G race of the season.

Ganong and fellow local skier, Bryce Bennett, hit the slopes in Soldeu, Andorra on Wednesday for the final downhill event of the World Cup season.

Ganong, 30, led the American effort on the course, which was new to the field of racers, crossing the finish line with a time 1 minute, 27.57 seconds for 10th place. Ganong finished .77 seconds behind race winner, Dominik Paris, of Italy.

"It's the last run of the season in downhill," Ganong said in an interview with U.S. Ski & Snowboard. "So it was pretty fun to enjoy perfect snow and a little easier track than we normally ski … so you can focus on enjoying the skiing. It's a really fun, kind of flowy hill, and there's no big scary jump or gnarly section."

For Ganong, who returned to World Cup racing after suffering a season-ending knee injury in December 2017, the result was his best finish in downhill since taking sixth place last December in Italy.

"I finally feel like I'm starting to find my speed and my confidence in my skiing," Ganong told U.S. Ski & Snowboard. "It's too bad the season is over now, but it's good to go into the prep period and into the summer with a little confidence and mentally knowing that I still have it and I'm fired up for the next year."

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Bennett, 26, struggled to find his timing on the track, according to U.S. Ski & Snowboard, finishing 21st. The result sent Bennett from sixth place in the World Cup downhill standings to seventh. Bennett finished 20th in downhill in 2017-18.

"Last night I was spending a little time reflecting on the goals I had written down for myself, and my goal this season was to become top 15 in the world," Bennett said during an interview with U.S. Ski & Snowboard. "Which means you have to be consistently in there every weekend. And there were a few weekends in there this season where I really surprised myself, where I was like, 'Wow, I can compete with these guys when all of the pieces are in line.' So, I far exceeded my expectations about three races into the season, and I was able to keep it going for a while."

Bennett is 31st in the overall standings. No American skier has ever won the World Cup downhill title. Bode Miller was the last skier from the U.S. to come close, finishing second in 2008 and 2005. Prior to that, local skier Daron Rahlves was runner-up in 2003 and 2004.

"You need that experience – of just living and competing in Europe – and also your equipment needs to be in line every single weekend and you have to understand what you're doing at all of these venues," Bennett remarked in an interview with U.S. Ski & Snowboard. "For me, personally, if I can manage through the North American series, and then put the hammer down through all of the classics, I'll set myself up for a position to have a chance at a title. The classic downhills are what really get me fired up for racing World Cup downhill, so managing the pieces when you're not at the classics and then putting the hammer down when it's the real downhills."

Racing continued the following day with super-G, and Ganong again led the Americans, finishing in 13th place with a time of 1:21.93. Paris picked up his second win in Andorra, finishing in first place with a time of 1:20.42. Ganong finished the year in 16th place in the super-G standings.

Racing will continue Friday and Saturday with giant slalom, and slalom, respectively.

For more information on Bennett's year and his thoughts on how fishing and downhill racing are similar, checkout his sit down with U.S. Ski & Snowboard's Megan Harrod.

Justin Scacco is a reporter for the Sierra Sun. Contact him at jscacco@sierrasun.com.