Julia Mancuso wins U.S. giant slalom title; Stacey Cook finishes third | SierraSun.com

Julia Mancuso wins U.S. giant slalom title; Stacey Cook finishes third

WINTER PARK, Colo. and#8212; A second and a half inter-run gap wasnand#8217;t big enough to keep Julia Mancuso from claiming her third consecutive U.S. giant slalom title Friday at the U.S. Alpine Championships in Winter Park, Colo.

Mancuso, the 2006 Olympic gold medalist in the discipline, trailed second-place finisher Sarah Schleper by 1.52 seconds after the first run on a sunny day in the Colorado Rockies. Mancuso cruised to the fastest run of the day (1:08.82) on the second run to take the win over Schleper with a 0.61-second margin.

Downhill specialist Stacey Cook of Truckee took her short skis for a ride to finish third, 1.94 seconds behind Mancuso.

and#8220;Sarah really layed it down first run. Maybe she shouldnand#8217;t have gone so fast, then I wouldnand#8217;t get so mad and want to ski fast,and#8221; said Mancuso, a product of the Squaw Valley Ski Team. and#8220;I like that kind of course. It was easy for me to see where I could go fast and just take risks. Itand#8217;s always hard to get back on the race skis after a little break, but second run I was a little more ready, it was softer but it was fun, a little wild ride like skiing in Squaw.and#8221;

The win marked Mancusoand#8217;s third straight national GS title (2009, 2010, 2011) and her 12th career national title across three disciplines.

Schleper crossed the line with a combined time of 2 minutes, 22.22 seconds.

and#8220;It was a frustrating loss but I knew Julia could beat me on a soft, straight course,and#8221; Schleper said of the intense competition among the the U.S. Ski Teamand#8217;s World Cup regulars. and#8220;I didnand#8217;t want it bad enough, obviously. I didnand#8217;t risk enough. After the first run I heard Juliaand#8217;s time, I knew I had to go as fast as I could. I didnand#8217;t do that and that was the difference.and#8221;

Cook was pleasantly surprised with her ninth career Nationals podium finish, especially in a discipline she hasnand#8217;t focused on in years.

and#8220;It feels a little strange, a little foreign,and#8221; said Cook. and#8220;Itand#8217;s a little too much work for me. Iand#8217;m used to the one-run program. Itand#8217;s fun to come into nationals and have a fun, homey environment. I think Iand#8217;m as surprised as everyone else that I was able to be fast today.and#8221;

Laurenne Ross finished fourth, 3.23 seconds behind Mancuso.

After the race, Mancuso signed hundreds of autographs and posed for photos with hoards of the nations up-and-coming racers.

and#8220;I think itand#8217;s really important [as a top racer] to set the pace and at least give the regional coaches the chance to see us World Cup skiers ski because we donand#8217;t always get that chance,and#8221; said Mancuso. and#8220;I remember coming to nationals as a junior and it was definitely a highlight. Every year itand#8217;s definitely a tiring season so it depends on the situation and how I feel, but I at least try to make an effort.and#8221;

Ski and Snowboard Club Vailand#8217;s Abby Ghent landed eighth overall as the top junior in the field, while Far West juniors Lila Lapanja of Incline Village and Morganne Murphy of Truckee finished 31st and 32nd, respectively. Lapanja posted a time of 2:35.28 and Murphy 2:35.48.

The Putnam Investments U.S. Alpine Championships continue in Winter Park Saturday with menand#8217;s and womenand#8217;s super G races. Slalom races are slated for Sunday.

For more details including results visit SkiRacing.com.

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