A Youthful U.S. Team Competes in World Cup - Ski Mag

A Youthful U.S. Team Competes in World Cup

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Copper Mountain, CO, Nov. 19--Youngsters Julia Mancuso (Tahoe City, CA), coming off outstanding results in her last three races, and Courtney Strait (Clifton Park, NY) will compete in their first World Cup race when the Cafe de Colombia World Cup schedule resumes this week at Copper Mountain.

The Chevy Truck Women's World Challenge will feature giant slalom Friday and slalom Saturday, a pair of races relocated from Park City, Utah, because of unseasonably warm temperatures and the snow drought embracing the American West. The races mark the return of World Cup racing to Copper Mountain, which also picked up men's and women's GS and slalom in March 1976 because of poor snow at California's Heavenly resort.

U.S. women's Head Coach Marjan Cernigoj said Wednesday six women would run GS, including Strait, 18 and a C Team racer in her second season on the U.S. Ski Team. Saturday, four women will ski slalom, including Mancuso, a 15-year-old who is a member of the Alpine Development Team.

Giant slalom starters: Kirsten Clark (Raymond, ME), Kristina Koznick (Burnsville, MN), Caroline Lalive (Steamboat Springs, CO), Sarah Schleper (Vail, CO), Tatum Skoglund (Bellevue, WA), and Strait.

Slalom starters: Koznick, Lalive, Schleper and Mancuso.

The starting lineups were completed based on results from time trials and $100,000 Super Series races. Cernigoj said U.S. coaches decided against filling the two remaining slalom start spots "because no one is skiing to that level to be competitive."

With Katie Monahan (Aspen, CO), Alex Shaffer (Park City, UT) and Tasha Nelson (Mound, MN) sidelined with injuries, it's a young team. Mancuso and Strait are making their World Cup debut; Skoglund skied in the opening GS at Park City two years ago, but has not raced World Cup since then; and Koznick is one of the world's best slalom skiers but it will be only her second World Cup giant slalom.

Understandably, Mancuso is the big surprise. She earned her start by finishing 30th and then 23rd in two $100,000 Super Series slaloms at Breckenridge. Tuesday, starting 82nd, she had the second-fastest second run and was the top American - finishing eighth - in a FIS-level GS, also at Breckenridge.

"It was incredible. Nobody expected anything like this from her. The development coaches told us Mancuso was skiing very fast in both slalom and GS, but this - skiing from the back as she did - was awesome. Obviously, we're all very happy with this," Cernigoj said. "The good thing is someone is coming from below, pushing the girls on top."

Mancuso - at 15 years and eight months - will be the youngest American starter since Koznick made her World Cup debut during the 1991 World Cup Finals at Waterville Valley, N.H., when she was 15 years and almost four months old.

Racing action on Copper's Main Vein run starts at 10:15 a.m. MST each day with second runs at 1:15 p.m. ESPN2 will broadcast tape-delayed coverage of the giant slalom Sunday (Nov. 21) at 3 p.m. EST and coverage of slalom Monday (Nov. 22) at 1:30 a.m. EST.

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