GIRDWOOD, Alaska March 22, 2004 (AP by Doug Alden) - As warm conditions softened the snow with each run of the giant slalom, Jimmy Cochran considered being cautious at the top then attacking the bottom.
But having won his first national title the day before, Cochran decided to just attack the whole way down, guiding his skis over the soft snow at Alyeska faster than anyone else Monday.
``You know it's funny, when you're skiing well it ends up being somewhat effortless. It certainly was today,'' said Cochran, who won the slalom Sunday. Cochran acknowledged he got some breaks. Bode Miller, the World Cup champion in the GS, missed his start time but was allowed to race anyway. Miller slipped past a gate on his first run, had to climb back up the hill and fell out of contention right away.
And Daron Rahlves, the super giant slalom national champion and leader after the first run Monday, missed a gate on his second run and didn't finish, prompting several high-fives and congratulations from teammates gathered around Cochran at the bottom of the course.
``It's been a long year. I've pretty much been going about 90 mph the entire year,'' he said. ``It's nice that it was just kind of winding down and I can end on a good note.''
Cochran's two first-place finishes gave his family 18 national titles. His father, Bob, won nine, and aunts Marilyn, Barbara Ann and Lindy combined for the others. And Jessica Kelley, Lindy's daughter, will try to add another for the family in the women's GS, which is the last race of this year's nationals.
Cochran, 22, spent the season skiing on the U.S. "C" team. He decided to leave the University of Vermont for full-time racing and although it was a difficult season of international racing, he didn't question the decision - especially after the slalom and GS titles.
``The slalom, I figured I have a chance to do pretty well. But to win the GS is unbelievable,'' Cochran said. ``No Bode, so that helps, but I'm really, really excited.''
Miller, who finished No. 4 in the World Cup overall standings, struggled with his racing all week. He also missed a gate Sunday in the slalom and had to climb back up in order to finish. Already the top skier on the U.S. team, he shrugged off any disappointment over not adding to his six career national titles.
``It's just tough. It's a finicky sport. Guys who are leading - first, second or third in the first run - don't necessarily win,'' Miller said. ``Flukey stuff can go on.'' The weather for the downhill and super giant slalom Friday and Saturday was frigid, but there was a big thaw when temperatures climbed well into the 30s by Monday afternoon's run.
Cochran had the third-fastest time of the morning, trailing only Jake Zamansky and Rahlves. And after taking over the lead with one of the top runs in warm afternoon sun, which softened the course considerably, Cochran sat at the bottom and waited.
``It was bit of a groove, kind of choppy and kind of soft but as long as you were over your skis, it was unbelievable,'' Cochran said of the snow, which got softer as the afternoon got warmer.
Zamansky couldn't quite pass Cochran, leaving only Rahlves, who held more than a half-second lead after the opening run. But when Rahlves, the downhill and super G specialist, skidded off course and missed a gate, there was nobody within range of catching Cochran.
Zamansky finished second (2:08.97), followed by Tom Rothrock (2:09.26). Rahlves was disappointed after posting such a fast first run - he was the only skier under a minute (59.81) - only to not finish after skidding off course. ``The snow was just really soft and I just lost all the pressure I had on my ski,'' said Rahlves, who won four World Cup races this season. ``I had a good season. Nationals isn't going to disappoint me or really change anything for the whole year.''
Copyright © 2000 The Associated Press