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Eyes Opened Wide at U.S. Alpine Championships
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Sunday, March 27, 2016
 

STORY BY KAREN BOSSICK

PHOTOS BY NILS RIBI and KAREN BOSSICK

On Friday Mikaela Shiffrin handily beat 67 other women down Greyhawk’s tough slalom course.

Saturday morning the Olympic gold medalist took a break from training for today’s giant slalom to join the crowd watching the first run of the men’s giant slalom from the base of Greyhawk.

Her eyes were trained on her brother Taylor Shiffrin, who is 3 years older and a racer for Denver University, which won the NCAA Championship in 2014.

The 2016 Nature Valley U.S. Championships, which conclude today, are not just about Olympic and World Cup racers. They’ve also brought top-notch athletes who aspire to the U.S. Ski Team to Sun Valley’s Bald Mountain.

These racers have had their eyes wide opened all week long as they’ve tackled the tough World Cup-type courses that have been thrown at them and learned how they stack up against some of the best ski racers in the world.

“If young skiers have aspirations, hopes of making it to the big time everything about this event is what they would find at the big level,” said Jonna Mendes, an Olympic downhiller and program director for the Sun Valley Ski Academy. “This has given these young people a chance to measure themselves and see how they stack up against Olympic medalists and World Cup medalists because these are the best of the best.”

Several former and current Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation skiers have gotten to compete in this week’s events: Tanner Farrow, Kipling Weisel, Hayden Terjeson, Haley Cutler, Erin Smith and Teagen Palmer.

On Saturday Farrow skied to a tenth-place giant slalom finish behind medalists Kieffer Christianson, Ryan Cochran-Siegle and Erik Read. Weisel placed 17 among 85 starters—two places ahead of Taylor Shiffrin.

Both beat out big names like Tim Jitloff, Michael Ankeny, David Chodounsky, Mark Engel and Erik Arvidsson, who did not finish

“Being here, skiing with these great skiers, seeing people who really care about skiing has given me renewed appreciation for the sport,” said Farrow. “It’s given me a chance to see how I stand against some of the best World Cup skiers. I wasn’t all that fast, but I did okay. I’m sure it will help as I try to further my skiing career.”

”It was awesome skiing on home hill,” added Weisel. “I didn’t have the results I would have liked this week, but I’m happy with some of the turns I made.”

Younger skiers are also taking note. Among them: 15-year-old Jake Blackburn and 13-year-old Josh Blackburn, both on the SVSEF’s alpine race team.

“It’s pretty awesome to see the pros—I loved the Super G. This week has shown me to go for it!” said Josh.

“It’s cool to have this in our home town. It’s cool to see all the good racers charge it,” added Jake.” I’ve learned a lot of things not to do, as well as things to do.”

Saturday’s giant slalom course started at the top of the Greyhawk,  with men making swooping arcing turns  around slalom gates spread all across the wide run.

Thirty seven of the 85 starters did not finish their first run.

The race boiled down to an exciting finish with Ryan Cochran-Siegle flying into first on the next-to-the-last run only to be upstaged by Kieffer Christianson—the last racer on the course.

Christianson’s win was not a given, though.

He caught a hand on a gate on the upper part of the course, then had a bobble on the bottom of the course. But he kept charging hard, fed by the roar of the crowd.

“I had a pretty good run,” Christianson said. “Getting my hand stuck in the gate threw me off. But it fired me up to keep charging. It feels good.”

“Normally, this late in the year the snow is not very good,” said Cochran-Siegle. “But this course is phenomenal—they really did a great job maintaining it!”

RESULTS OF TWO RUNS

Kieffer Christianson 2:16.62

Ryan Cochran-Siegle 2:17.45

Erik Read 2:18.68

Tanner Farrow (10) 2:21.91

Kipling Weisel (17) 2:24.02

Hayden Terjeson DNF

TODAY’S GIANT SLALOM TO START AT 10

Mikaela Shiffrin, who at 17 became the youngest woman to win gold in slalom at the World Championships, will be first on course in today’s Women’s Giant Slalom.

The event, which will conclude the Nature Valley U.S. Alpine Championships, will start at 10 a.m. on Greyhawk. The start had previously been scheduled for 9:30 a.m.

The second run will start at 1 p.m. The Awards Ceremony is scheduled to start about 1:30 p.m. at Warm Springs Plaza.

Winning is not a given for the 5-foot-7, 145-pound Shiffrin, as it was with slalom. She has won only one giant slalom on the World Cup circuit.  But she will be first on course.

Teagen Palmer is slated to run 29th and Haley Cutler 42nd. Erin Smith will run 62nd.

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