U.S. Alpine Skiing Championships: Local athletes to compete against nation’s best | SierraSun.com

U.S. Alpine Skiing Championships: Local athletes to compete against nation’s best

Sun Staff reports
Provided to the SunZach Rickenbach is one of five members of the Squaw Valley Ski Team who qualified to compete in the U.S. Alpine Skiing Championships at Alyeska Ski Resort from March 24-31.
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Five members of the Squaw Valley Ski Team qualified to compete against the best skiers in the country at the U.S. Alpine Skiing Championships at Alyeska Ski Resort, Alaska, from Tuesday through March 31.

The Squaw skiers include Zach Rickenbach, 16, Bryce Bennett, 16, Keith Moffat, 18, Sean Higgins, 19, and Christie Patient, 18. They will ski all four events ” slalom, giant slalom, super G and downhill.

The U.S. Championships are considered a right of passage for top young racers trying to prove themselves in front of the U.S. Ski Team coaching staff. Race well enough, and the youngsters may find themselves on the same level as their idols.

The season-culminating championship pits the fastest U.S. Ski Team athletes against hundreds of young skiers hoping for a competitive performance against the likes of top American racers and Tahoe-area locals Julia Mancuso, Stacey Cook and Marco Sullivan. Squaw Valley Ski Team alumni Travis Ganong, Greg Bartels and Nick Daniels also will compete, as well as World Cup overall champion Lindsey Vonn of Vail, Colo.

Nick Maiocco, a Squaw Valley Ski Team coach who travels with the J1 and J2 athletes, offered the following analysis of the Squaw skiers who qualified:

Zach Rickenbach, Tahoe City: “Zach is a great skier. He’s fundamentally very strong. He’s just a sound and balanced skier. He got a third place at J2 Nationals on a very, very tough hill. The course was really tight, and there was a lot of terrain in there, and he skied fast and he skied smart. … He seems to come on stronger late in the season.”

Bryce Bennett, Alpine Meadows: “Bennett just loves skiing. He just loves skiing. He’s kind of a cool guy on top of the course. He’s very relaxed at the start. He definitely has fun with it, a lot of fun with it. He doesn’t put the pressure on himself competing. … He’s just finding his niche and skiing faster and faster.”

Keith Moffat, Berkeley: “He’s really good at speed. He knows the lines. He can see where he wants to go and what he wants to do. He’s a guy that tunes and makes his ski equipment the best he possibly can. He’s one of those guys that’s meticulous with his equipment, which is very good for speed. He probably has the fastest and best skis around town.”

Sean Higgins, Incline Village: “He’s the oldest (of the group). He’s starting to figure out he can ski with those guys. He’s skiing extremely well ” the best he’s skied. … He’s a very good tech skier (slalom and giant slalom). He’s just starting to figure it out.”

Christie Patient, Truckee: “She’s the only girl. … Christie is one of the skiers like Zach ” she skis better, when it really comes to a challenge at the end of the year. … Once she got to Western Region Championships she scored a second and a third in GS. … She’s more of a speed skier. She likes to go fast.”