Resi Stiegler captures U.S. Alpine Championships slalom crown

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Resi Stiegler, center, celebrates her first place finish along with second place finisher Roni Remme (left) and third place finisher Lila Lapanja (right).

CARRABASSETT VALLEY — With one run under her belt in the anything-can-happen slalom event, Resi Stiegler clung to a .16-second lead over Megan McJames, and Roni Remme of Canada and the University of Utah was just .13 back of McJames.

Knowing she needed a good second run, Stiegler shot out of the gate, and started an aggressive line.

Between the first and second runs, though, the sun continued to beat down on the Narrow Gauge trail, softening the top layer of snow but icing up the base.

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Stiegler almost found out the hard way.

“I wanted a lot more the second run, so I got out of the gate, and I was like, ‘Hey, come on!’” Stiegler said. “The snow was a lot icier (in the second run), and halfway down I was thinking, ‘Oh my God, I’m going to lose the win, what am I doing?’ So from there I skied really solid and tried not to do anything too crazy.”

Stiller held it together and zipped through the 59-gate course in 50.51 seconds — the fastest of all second runs — for a combined time of 1:39.68 to earn the slalom title at the U.S. Alpine Championships at Sugarloaf on Sunday. After a season of World Cup racing, this week at the Maine hill has been a good way for many of the country’s top skiers, including Stiegler, to wind down.

“It gives you confidence, it’s fun,” Stiegler said.

Recently crowned overall World Cup champion Mikayla Shiffrin has owned the slalom event at the U.S. Alpine Championships in recent years, winning the past two and four of the past six before skipping this year’s event after an exhausting year on the World Cup circuit.

That left the door open for Stiegler — and others.

Among those “others” is Lila Lapanja, a U.S. Alpine ‘B’ team member who finished second to Shiffrin a year ago at Sun Valley. She was the very first skier out of the gate on Sunday.

“I love running first, but I haven’t done it at all this season,” Lapanja said. “I’ve been in the 30s basically all year, so I was a little nervous. I just had to trust myself. I know I left a little bit first run, but I felt like I pushed second run. I felt like I was in better rhythm and better tactics. It was good progress.”

After that first run, Lapanja sat in fourth position, one off the medal podium. With better snow and a better line in the second trip down Narrow Gauge, she moved into third.

“The snow was actually better the second run,” Lapanja said. “It bubbled up from underneath, the moisture and the warm weather, and the surface was icy and hard, and it gave you something to push against, and if you were confident on your outside ski, you could just find the rhythm the whole way down. You just had to be confident.”

Sandwiched between Stiegler and Lapanja in second is another skier familiar to the slalom podium at the U.S. Championships. Roni Remme of Canada, a member of the University of Utah ski team, adapted from run to run, also improving her position and earning silver.

“The conditions changed quite a bit from first run to second run,” Remme said. “It was icier at the top, and I think it took us until the bottom to figure out how we could approach the turns better.”

Remme knew where she stood — in third — after the first run, and knew she needed a solid run to maintain or better that position.

“We can see so much of the run from the top,” Remme said. “I personally don’t like to hear much from the course, I like to stick to my plan and execute that plan the best that I can. You just absolutely cannot hold anything back, I just wanted to punch as hard as I could. If I had to make a recovery, make it as quickly as I could.”

Megan McJames, who pulled out a podium finish in Saturday’s super-G, was in second after one run of the slalom, but stumbled a bit on the bottom portion of the course and slipped into fifth. Foreste Peterson placed fourth.

Racing for the women continues Monday with the final event of the week for them, the giant slalom.

Young fans hoping for autographs wait outside the finish corral.Colby College’s Mardi Haskell gets a hug from her mom, Annie, after the race — her next-to-last as a college student.Sixth-place finisher Julia Ford, with the independent Redneck Racing team, exits the first flush of the race.Foreste Peterson cross blocks a gate making a right-footed turn at the top of the headwall.Third place finisher Lila Lapanja keeps her eyes forward as she traverses the headwall early in the race.Winner Resi Stiegler celebrates after crossing the finish line.Resi Stieger is interviewed after her win.

Winner Resi Stiegler exits the flush on the headwall.

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