Ski wrap: Local alpine racers named to Junior World Team, put on a show in Utah |

Ski wrap: Local alpine racers named to Junior World Team, put on a show in Utah

Incline Village’s Lila Lapanja, 25, raced to a first-place finish in an FIS qualification event at the National Winter Activity Center in Park City, Utah.

Lapanja led the way last Friday in a field featuring several local skiers, finishing the slalom event with a time of 38.66.

North Tahoe’s AJ Hurt, 19, was competing last weekend as well and finished 11th. She also posted a third-place finish in the prior day’s North American Cup parallel slalom event.

North American Cup overall points leader, Keely Cashman, 20, out of Squaw, claimed ninth in both races last weekend.

Another Squaw Valley skier, Foreste Peterson 26, posted a first-place finish in parallel slalom, and was seventh in slalom. Also with Squaw ties, Patricia Mangan, 22, claimed ninth in parallel slalom and 10th in slalom. Ainsley Proffit, 18, who skied for Sugar Bowl Academy as a youngster, posted a ninth-place finish in parallel slalom.

On Tuesday, U.S. Ski & Snowboard named Hurt, Cashman, and Squaw Valley’s Alix Wilkinson, 19, to the 2020 FIS Alpine Junior World Ski Championships Team. The team will compete in Narvik, Norway, in six events March 5 to 14.

“We are excited to name a team of both experienced and first-time athletes to the 2020 World Junior Ski Championships,” said Land Rover U.S. Alpine Ski Team Development Director Chip Knight. “Four of the 15 athletes have had top-10 results in past WJSC events, six have won NorAm races this year, and all of them have performed well in NorAm Cup races. We are aiming for strong individual performances and a podium finish in the Marc Hodler overall team standings.”

Bennett claims 12th in World Cup downhill

Squaw Valley’s Bryce Bennett, 27, claimed his third top-15 finish of the season last Thursday in Saalbach-Hinterglemm, Austria, racing to 12th place in downhill.

Bennett led the U.S. with a time of 1:33.93, which was 0.97 off the pace set by winner Thomas Dressen, 26, of Germany.

“I think I made a little mistake entering (the middle) section and then I thought I skied the rest of it really well, which I was psyched on,” Bennett said in an interview with U.S. Ski & Snowboard. “I had a little bobble down bottom, and that’s just (how) it goes sometimes. The snow is a little inconsistent, but it’s pretty impressive how much the course conditions turned around from yesterday to today. They busted some serious butt last night to make this race happen, which is cool.”

Bennett — whose best finish of the season, thus far, has been a seventh place in Wengen, Switzerland — said the goal for the remainder of the season is to crack the top three.

“I’m just trying to hopefully get on the podium,” he added. “I think that’s the goal at the end of the season. Just keep pushing and stay focused.”

Bennett went on to finish in 36th place in Friday’s super-G race in Austria.

Ganong continues strong February

Squaw Valley alpine racer Travis Ganong, 31, continued a solid month of racing last weekend, claiming 15th in downhill and seventh in super-G at the World Cup stop in Saalbach-Hinterglemm, Austria.

Ganong’s seventh-place finish marks his sixth top-ten result of the World Cup season. He was able to take advantage of a super-G track that was shortened due to heavy snowfall and high winds to lead the U.S. with a time of 58.94, which was 0.64 off the first-place time set by Norway’s Alexsander Aamodt Kilde, 27.

“I had a really good top-two splits and was feeling really confident and comfortable on my skis, and I landed off the second to last jump and the snow is a lot different down there,” said Ganong in an interview with U.S. Ski & Snowboard. “I didn’t adjust properly, so I went into two turns and tried to push hard and lost my ski, and I lost over seven-tenths of a second on the second to last split. It’s super frustrating because I have never been on the podium in super-G yet and I’ve been really close a lot of times, and today was a really good chance for me. I’m really bummed out, but also happy with my skiing, and I’m looking forward to one more chance in Kvitfjell (Norway), and finals in Cortina (Italy). All in all, pretty happy and I can get to go home now for a little break, so it’s nice.”

The World Cup season will head to Japan this weekend for slalom and giant slalom racing.

O’Brien picks up World Cup points

Last year’s North American Cup overall champion, Nina O’Brien, returned to World Cup racing last weekend, and managed to pick up season points with a 26th-place finish in giant slalom at Kranjska Gora, Slovenia.

O’Brien, 22, who raced for Squaw Valley as a youngster, was the U.S. team’s lone representative, and after a solid first run, ran into some trouble near the bottom of her second run, finishing 3.80 seconds off the time of first-place finisher, New Zealand’s Alice Robinson, 18.

The finish marked O’Brien’s fourth straight World Cup event where she’s scored points, and the seventh time she’s scored World Cup points this season. Last year, she scored World Cup points in just two events.

“It feels great to be finding some consistency lately,” said O’Brien in an interview with U.S. Ski & Snowboard. “My skiing feels like it’s in a good spot, and the speed is getting there. While I’m always happy to be in the points, I want more. I had some really good sections today but ultimately made a few mistakes over terrain. It’s a process, and I’m trying to learn from each race. Hopefully, I can clean things up in tomorrow’s slalom.”

O’Brien’s first run in Sunday’s slalom race was not fast enough to qualify for a second run.

Justin Scacco is a reporter for the Sierra Sun. Contact him at or 530-550-2643.

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