LAKE PLACID, NY (March 25) — On the final day, talented teen Julia Mancuso (Olympic Valley, CA) survived a near-spill at the top of her final run and then came out of fifth place Tuesday to add the giant slalom gold medal to her two earlier victories at the Chevy Truck U.S. Alpine Championships.
ESPN will televise highlights of the championships at Whiteface Mountain at 3 p.m. EST on April 2.
Slalom champion Kristina Koznick (Burnsville, MN) led the first run by .21 over Jessica Kelley (Starksboro, VT) with Mancuso .49 back in fifth. After having problems on the first pitch, right out of the start, Mancuso charged through the lower two-thirds and finished in 2:34.52. Kelley's silver-medal time was 2:35.10 while Koznick and defending champion Jonna Mendes (Heavenly, CA) tied for the bronze with duplicate times of 2:35.15.
Mancuso's performance equaled the triple-gold showing at Winter Park, CO, by Diann Roffe, who had won super G, slalom and GS but decided not to run the downhill even though she appeared a cinch — if she finished - to win the combined title, too.
Between runs, the 19-year-old Mancuso, who won the downhill last Wednesday and super G Friday, said, she didn't want to repeat her mistake in slalom Sunday when she was headed to the gold medal in combined — only to fall at the bottom of her second run and eventually finish out of the top three.
MANCUSO: "PUSHING MY LIMITS..." TO THIRD GOLD
"I don't know (where she made up the half-second on Koznick) because I kinda fell on top. I knew with that mistake," Mancuso said, "I had to really let it go. On the last run, I was really tired and I was pushing my limits, and I didn't want to fall — I was so closes to the finish line in slalom and I didn't want that to happen again.
"So, this time I knew I could just power through that and let it rip towards the bottom, and that's where I think I made up a lot of time."
She had a small problem on the first pitch but overcame the trouble spot and turned it into gold. "It was pretty back and forth, and there were some good grooves going," Mancuso explained. "I just took a slight detour. It didn't cost me much time. It might've been better because it was like, 'Okay, now you really have to go!'...
Mancuso, who has won six medals at World Juniors in the last three years and found a lot of success this early in her career, said her disappointment in slalom "was kind of an eye-opener for me to really overcome feeling the downs of ski racing. It kind of made me realize I shouldn't be mad over this, just be happy, especially with what's going on in the world today. We definitely have amazing lives, to be this lucky to be out here ski racing and there are other people not in the best place in the world right now. I really realized I should just be happy with every day and take what I have because it's a wonderful life."
She added, "This really makes my season end on a higher note. I want to carry this feeling of confidence into next year."
KELLEY'S MENTAL TOUGHNESS PAID OFF
Kelley, the daughter of 1976 Olympian Lindy Cochran Kelley, was equally buoyant. "I'm very happy with the way it ended — fourth in the slalom and second in GS. It's nice to end on a good note.
Running 29th in the second run, the U.S. C Team racer said with a chuckle, "It was a little bumpy. I think that's kind of an understatement. It was a rough ride...
"It was pretty mental. In the start you had to think you had to be as aggressive as you could be and take it down the hill. You couldn't hold back at all."
Koznick said she also "got behind" on the first pitch — "I think most girls did" — and never got back the rhythm that helped her take the first-run lead.
"I'm pretty disappointed because I was determined to come in here and win. I know I have the ability to do it. It's not nearly as big a distance between me and the rest of the girls as it is in slalom," she said, "but I knew I could do it, so I was really excited about first ruun, that I came down with the lead.
"I was determined second run but I just couldn't get it together. It's too bad," Koznick said, "because it's a frustrating way to end the season. It's not bad to be third at nationals, but when you're winning, third doesn't feel as good."
In the Regions Cup battle, the West region won with more than 2,900 points, finishing about 600 points ahead of the East. The top juniors were Mancuso, Kaylin Richardson (Edina, MN), who was sixth overall, and Resi Stiegler (Jackson Hole, WY), who was seventh.
2003 CHEVY TRUCK U.S. ALPINE CHAMPIONSHIPS
Lake Placid, NY — March 25
1. Julia Mancuso, Olympic Valley, CA, 2:34.52
2. Jessica Kelley, Starksboro, VT, 2:35.10
3. (tie) Jonna Mendes, Heavenly, CA, and Kristina Koznick, Burnsville, MN, 2:35.15 each
5. Sarah Schleper, Vail, CO, 2:35.27
6. Kaylin Richardson, Edina, MN, 2:37.05
7. Resi Stiegler, Jackson Hole, WY, 2:37.23
8. Lindsey Kildow, Vail, CO, 2:37.26
9. Libby Ludlow, Bellevue, WA, 2:38.25
10. Lauren Ross, Stowe, VT, 2:38.31