Laurenne Ross earns super-G crown at U.S. Alpine Championships

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Eventual winner, Laurenne Ross arcs a left-footed turn.

Galena Wardle does some pre-race visualization. Wardle finihed 6th.Sam Conzelman arcs a turn midway through her run.Rylee McCormack moves through the Meadow.Dylan Fiore keeps her eyes ahead as she enters the Meadow.CVA coach Kevin Eccles gives some advice to Rylee McCormack before the woman’s super G event.

CARRABASSETT VALLEY — Laurenne Ross had every reason to be a bit nervous as she broke the wand in the U.S. Alpine Ski Championship super-G race Saturday.

Fellow U.S. Ski Team racer Jacqueline Wiles, the first of the elite racers on course, failed to finish after falling just past the halfway mark.

But she got a little help — from Wiles herself.

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“Jaqueline Wiles helped out a lot. She went out on the difficult section, so she radioed up and told us how it ran, which was really nice. From what I expected, it was pretty similar.”

Ross had one or two sections where she felt she could have skied cleaner, but otherwise nailed her only run of the day, posting a blistering time of 1:21.44 to earn the women’s super-G national title.

“I did have two turns that weren’t super clean, and that was coming right off the pitch, so I know that I had to carry my speed and start arcing more,” Ross said. “I think intuitively, I started arcing and skiing clean. The bottom section is really flat, so I just carried my speed really well.”

Ross, a 2014 Olympian, last won a U.S. title in 2013, also in the super-G. She’s been a member of the U.S. World Championship teams in 2011, 2013, 2016 and 2017.

Even with all of that experience, the Narrow Gauge trail at Sugarloaf gave her — and others Saturday — pause in a few sections.

“Coming off of headwall,” Ross said. “I wasn’t super clean on headwall, I was just a little nervous with my speed, so I came off and knew I had to arc my next couple of turns, and I carried good speed the rest of the run.”

Stacey Cook, a fellow Olympian tied for second with Megan McJames with a time of 1:22.49. Cook was as excited about the course conditions as she was about her finish.

“Conditions were really good,” Cook said. “I’d love to go ski it again. It was fun to have a perfect surface like that at an event that’s not a World Cup. I wish I could have another run at it, because I gave away a bit in the middle. We were getting mixed reports about how that middle section was running, and I think I just listened a little too well and was a little cautious through that section. That’s kind of how super-G is for me. I have a problem sending it on that first run, which is why I’m primarily a downhiller, I’d say. It was too much of a training run today and not enough of a race run.”

Still, she said, she’s thrilled to have finished in second — even if it is a tie.

“I would tie with Megan on any given day, she’s the best,” Cook said, giving McJames a hug.

Stubborn early morning fog that enshrouded the top of the Narrow Gauge trail delayed the start of the women’s race. A fresh blanket of a couple of inches of snow also forced officials to re-order the start of the race, giving deference to the better skiers by moving them down a few positions to allow the course to speed up.

Originally slated for 9:30 a.m., the first skier, Bates College senior Kelsey Chenoweth, broke the wand just after 10:15 a.m., followed by a handful of junior racers, including three from Carrabassett Valley Academy.

That experience, Cook said, is vital to the continued success of the U.S. Ski Team., even as a veteran of three Olympic Games.

“Nationals still mean something to me,” Cook said. “You have a long season on the World Cup, you go to World Championships, and the Olympics a few times, and people … it’s really kind of easy to forget about this event. It’s the lowest level event that some of us have for the year, but for most people here, it’s the highest level event. But the title, it still means something. I take that to heart.

“I remember the first time I went to nationals, and how meaningful it was to race against the best and measure up,” Cook added. “I want those girls at the back to measure up to my best. I’m not going to give anything away, I want them to see where they need to get to, and that’s probably the most powerful tool at that age, to race against the best.”

The best Saturday in the women’s race was Ross. And it wasn’t all that close.

“I still have to think about what I have to do,” Ross said. “ Sometimes I forget about that in races and sometimes rely on my natural skiing. But if I approach a race without aggression, I’m slow no matter what, so I’m learning every race, I have to push it. And I did.

“You have to take that risk if you want to win.”

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