Mancuso does it again |

Mancuso does it again

Al Grillo/APOlympic gold medal winner Julia Mancuso, left, signs autographs after her run in the women's downhill ski race in the U.S. Alpine Championships at Alyeska Resort in Girdwood, Alaska, on Friday. Stacy Cook, right, watches the race. Mancuso and Cook finished 1-2 in Saturday's super G.

GIRDWOOD, Alaska ” Julia Mancuso of Olympic Valley, who just completed the best U.S. women’s World Cup overall season since 1984, earned the eighth national title of her career Saturday, winning the super G at the Nature Valley U.S. Alpine Championships as Californians swept the podium.

Mancuso was third in the World Cup overall standings with four wins, including one in SG for the best showing by a U.S. woman since Tamara McKinney was third 23 years earlier; Saturday, she was timed in 1:11.80 over the mile-long (1.6K) course.

Olympian Stacey Cook, a Truckee High grad who now resides in Mammoth, took the silver medal in 1:12.03 while Katie Hitchcock of Sacramento finished third in 1:12.12. Cook was the 2006 SG champion.

“It’s so beautiful here and it was a lot of fun, but it’s got a big jump (the Waterfall jump) and you don’t want younger kids crashing,” Mancuso said of the course. “But it’s such a fun hill; the snow was cold and slow, and the hill was set a little differently than yesterday [for the downhill]. In inspection it looked similar and we thought it would run similarly.

“But the jump projected you in the wrong direction,” she said.

Mancuso has been testing new equipment, which didn’t run fast in the DH where she was sixth, but nearly three seconds behind Kaylin Richardson (Edina, MN), who won.

“Today was much better and gives me good confidence that my equipment will be good again next season,” she said.

Mancuso, who has been on the podium in eight consecutive U.S. championships ” and holds the U.S. record with 12 consecutive top-3s at nationals ” enjoys the atmosphere at the U.S. championships because of the camaraderie in addition to the end-of-the-season environment. Her first championships were at Jackson Hole, Wyo., in 2000, two weeks after she turned 16, when she was silver medalist in both super G and combined.

“I love nationals,” Mancuso said. “You come out see your friends, have some fun, encourage the young ones to pop in there. We never get a chance to be relaxed during the World Cup season, but this is such a different environment.”

Cook, who won the non-title FIS downhill Thursday but was just off the podium in fourth place Friday in the national title DH, was philosophical.

“It was a wild day; the course wasn’t set a whole lot different than yesterday [for the DH], but it definitely skied differently. Caitlin [Ciccone – Bethlehem, NH, the defending giant slalom gold medalist] started eighth and she crashed, and the coaches’ radios immediately jumped. The coaches said we needed to slow down before the Waterfall so we could make it without a problem. Only a little more speed made a big difference in how far you flew off the jump.

“They said slow down going into it, and then make up the time afterwards. This course is a side hill and there’s plenty of room to make up some time. There’s five gates at the bottom with a nice rhythm, so it could be done. For me, it kind of sums up my season ” some good results, then some not-so-good, then good again … a little inconsistent, which is frustrating,” Cook said.

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