It was the local girl defeating the youthful phenom. And the folks at Squaw Valley ski resort couldn’t have been any happier.
Julie Mancuso, who grew up on the slopes of Squaw Valley, used her “home snow” advantage to win Thursday’s giant slalom at the U.S. Alpine Championships. It was the 16th U.S. title for Mancuso, more than any man or woman in history.
A thrilled Mancuso finished .88 seconds in front of Mikaela Shiffrin, 18, who had to settle for second place. A Colorado skier from Eagle-Vail, Shiffrin locked up first place in the Audi FIS Alpine World Cup slalom title last week in Switzerland.
“It’s very fun to be at my home mountain, and of course I want to win here,” Mancuso said. “I think that’s the cool thing about records even if it’s something like U.S. Championships; when you are kind of pushing for something or extending a record. It makes it that much more fun.”
2013 NorAm overall champion Megan McJames (Park City, UT) finished third to round out the women's podium. U.S. downhill champion Jackie Wiles (Aurora, OR) was sixth and Foreste Peterson (Berkeley, CA) took seventh to finish 2-3 among junior women.
The race was shortened from the planned start due to inconsistent snow after heavy snowfall on Wednesday.
“It’s another race. It’s another training day,” Shiffrin said. “It’s awesome to be here. It’s beautiful today and hopefully this weather keeps up. I love U.S. Championships, it’s such a fun event and there’s so much healthy competition.”
A packed crowd was on site for the opening race under Squaw Valley’s bluebird skies.
“It’s really cool. I’ve seen a lot of people I know and all my friends come out to cheer me on,” Mancuso said. “And all the kids, it’s really, really fun. It’s even a school day so they're probably happy they got to miss school. I knew that it (the short course) was going to be hard and Mikaela is skiing really great GS through this year, so I just went for it. I was a little conservative on the bottom here, just because it’s still really icy.”
Men’s Giant Slalom
It was locals’ day at Squaw. Mancuso won the women’s GS and Tim Jitloff of Reno took first with a victory in the men’s giant event.
Defending champ Robby Kelley (Starksboro, VT) placed second and Seppi Stiegler (Jackson Hole, WY) was third.
Jitloff, who grew up in nearby Truckee, earned his career fourth U.S. title.
“It was challenging for sure, but I grew up racing on this hill so I know what’s going on,” Jitloff said. “For me this is just a lot of fun, so it’s really a weight off the shoulder if you can go and just enjoy yourself. That’s what it was today. It felt good to kind of reel back the years a little bit on home turf. It was nice.
I’m one of the older bucks out here, so this comes with some experience. I remember being wild and crazy too, but that’s not always fast. I just tried to ski smooth and clean and really just try to soak it all in.”
The Nature Valley U.S. Alpine Championships continue today through Sunday. NBC will broadcast a special show from the Nature Valley U.S. Alpine Championships on Sunday at 9 a.m.