AJ Ginnis prevails at U.S. Alpine Championships slalom

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Eventual winner A.J. Ginnis psychs himself up in the start gate.

CARRABASSETT VALLEY — If there is a men’s slalom torch to be passed on the U.S. Ski Team, David Chodounsky will be the one doing the passing. Winner of the past three U.S. Alpine slalom titles, Chodounsky was again in fine form Sunday.

But one of those skiers perhaps waiting for that torch to be passed — AJ Ginnis — was just a little bit faster.

Ginnis held off Chodounsky in the second run to earn his first slalom title by .15-seconds.

“David, he’s our leader, he’s our captain of the team,” Ginnis said. “Beating him is extremely tough, and to be able to edge him out today, I’m really happy.”

Chodounsky won the U.S. slalom title in Squaw Valley in 2014, at Sugarloaf in 2015, and at Sun Valley last year, a remarkable run for one of the world’s top slalom racers.

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“It was a tough course,” Chodounsky said. “The conditions, it slicked up a bit. It was difficult to be clean on that course. I did what I could. I went as hard as I could, just came up a little bit short. I have no complaints.”

Ginnis was in a good spot after the first run, ahead by .35 seconds over Chodounsky and Robby Kelley by another .23 seconds. But he took nothing for granted during his second effort.

“It was a really tricky course, it was one of those kinds of courses you don’t really train that often,” Ginnis said. “Again, Dave being a veteran, I knew he was going to ski that well. Going through the gate you could hear the crowd go nuts for him, so I knew I had to do something special, and I pushed it really hard.”

Chodounsky did lay down a solid run — the best of the second run among all skiers — but had to wait at the bottom while Ginnis navigated Narrow Gauge. He nearly didn’t.

“There were a couple of slick spots, and you don’t really expect them coming,” Ginnis said. “It’s not easy to prepare for them, and I slipped a little. But it wasn’t enough to get me down.”

Skiing from fourth position after the first run, Ankeny rallied to place third.

“There’s a couple gates you have to line up,” Ankeny said. “You have to take a little here, to gain a lot further down. My goal was to line up the first gate of each section, and then carry the speed down. I feel like I stuck to that pretty well. There was one or two where I missed it, but went into hustle mode and made it out OK.

“I had to push a little bit. I had to dig deep and put a lot of power into the ski,” Ankeny added. “The first run, I skied well on the top, but down low, there was a bit of a snow change, it went from ice to a bit of a softer surface, and so I skied a little hesitantly at the bottom, and that’s where I lost most of my time. I had to keep pushing it down the bottom.”

Kelley placed fourth, and Sandy Vietze finished in fifth position.

While Chodounsky lost his spot at the top after three consecutive wins, he’s not all that disappointed, particularly since most of his teammates — and every skier who placed in Sunday’s top 10 — are at least five years his junior. Ginnis is 10 years younger.

“AJ, Michael, Mark (Engel) who didn’t finish, Robby Kelley, they’re all skiing well, they’re fast skiers and you’ve seen brilliant runs from them on the World Cup, so all they need is a little bit more consistency and they’ll be right up with the top in the world. They’re fast skiers, and to be second place among that is pretty cool.”

“We train together all the time, he’s just an amazing guy,” Ginnis said. “I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for him and his guidance.”

Not that winning was any less satisfying, though.

“I’ve been getting second to him a bunch, so it’s nice to finally get this in,” Ginnis said laughing.

Tucker Marshall celebrates temporarily moving into podium position after crossing the finish line.John Blackburn gets into some trouble as he hits some ruts that developed during the men’s first run.Winner A.J. Ginnis makes a perfect turn on the steep headwall early in his first run.Second place finisher David Chodounsky eyes the red gate across the hill.Fourth-place finisher Robbie Kelley gets low cross blocking a blue gate early in the race.A.J. Ginnis, center, celebrates his first place finish alongside second place finisher David Chodounsky (left) and Michael Ankeney (right).While he would be surpassed by the next skier, A.J. Ginnis, David Chodounsky celebrates his move into first place.Sandy Vietze slaps the hand of a fan as he leaves the finish corral.

Winner A.J. Ginnis celebrates his victory.

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