Eventual winner Ryan Cochran-Siegle.Sugarloaf favorite Sam Morse gets low on a left-footed turn.Samuel DuPratt arcs a turn entering the Meadow.Third place finisher Travis Ganong cuts around a blue gate.Seventh place finisher Drew Duffy shoulders a gate going through the Meadow.Argentine’s Javier Cristian Simari Birkner almost comes undone.
CARRABASSETT VALLEY — The speaker crackled.
“Did he make it?” The host bellowed.
Ryan Cochran-Siegle’s head whipped around. He looked at the scoreboard, sighed in relief, and turned back around.
“Sorry, I’m kind of distracted,” he said.
As if to echo what Cochran-Siegle himself had just confirmed, “Nooo! Just missed!” the speaker boomed.
The just-finished skier hadn’t beaten the day’s top time — his top time.
No one else did, either.
Buoyed by skiing in a familiar place, and with several familiar faces watching, Cochran-Siegle improved upon last year’s finish in the super-G at the U.S. Alpine Championships the only way he could: by winning.
His time of 1:19.66 was .26 faster than U.S. Ski Team teammate Jared Goldberg, giving Cochran-Siegle his first national title. He finished runner-up in both the super-G and giant slalom a year ago.
U.S. Ski Team veteran Travis Ganong placed third, while Carrabassett Valley Academy product and local favorite Sam Morse finished in fourth, five places ahead of fellow U-21 competitoe Erik Arvidsson.
“Most of the course you have to attack and ski with good depth and tactically,” Cochran-Siegle said. “The one section going into headwall, it skis pretty fast today, with the ice. I for sure smeared it a little bit before, just because I knew there was air time, so I skied that section smart. But the rest of this, you just have to really let it run.”
A native of Vermont from a family with a lengthy skiing pedigree, Cochran-Siegle has seen and skied many different kinds of snow and conditions. But those at Sugarloaf on Saturday suited him best.
“The course is in great condition, the snow is really, really fair,” Cochran-Siegle said. “It’s definitely slick for some of the younger guys who haven’t skied in those conditions, but for those of us coming off the World Cup circuit, it’s familiar territory. It reacts really nicely.”
Of course, Cochran-Siegle and some of his teammates have been at the mountain for a week, having skied in the Nor-Am event just prior to the U.S. championships.
“We never actually started from the top,” Cochran-Siegle said. “It was pretty interesting running into the headwall with more speed, but just knowing how the hill pulls and the kind of terrain was advantageous.”
Goldberg, who like Cochran-Siegle is on the U.S. Ski Team’s ‘B’ team, also ran the Nor-Am race this week.
“The course for Nor-Ams was a lot more turn-y,” Goldberg said. “Today was a lot closer to what we run on the World Cup, more open with a technical high-speed section.
At least he was on skis at all. Goldberg went home for a while after the U.S. Ski Team’s tour of Europe was over. That, he said, helps Saturday just as much as knowing the course did.
“I had three weeks at home, I was mountain biking and golfing at home in Salt Lake,” Goldberg said. “Had to put the boots back on to come over here and do this. But it’s been fun. I’m coming in really fresh for this last little push of the year.”
To tame the Narrow Gauge trail Saturday, some of the world’s best had to navigate a slick top half of the course, and conserve as much speed as possible for a very flat finish.
“I felt the best, I think I did the headwall pretty well,” Goldberg said. “It’s pretty blind, so it’s hard to know how you come in there. The bottom is really where I thought I was doing really well. Coming off that headwall, it’s where you need to hold a lot of your speed, and bring it all the way to the finish, where it’s almost dead flat. It’s very glid-y down here.”
Two years ago, the last time the championships were at Sugarloaf, Drew Duffy came from the middle of the pack and stunned many of the top skiers with a win in the super-G. Now a ‘C’ team member, Duffy wasn’t surprising anyone. He finished solidly in seventh from his 21st starting position.
“It was a great course set, the snow was awesome,” Duffy said. “It was super icy. The sun was in and out, but it was good.”
For Cochran-Siegle, this race was, in part, about family — he met up with his mother, 1972 Olympic gold medalist Barbara Cochran, and father, who came over from Vermont. And it was also about his skiing family, many of whom were together at one event for the first time since the very beginning of the season.
“It brings the team together for this last event,” Cochran-Siegle said. “Once we leave Copper at the beginning of the season, a lot of us don’t see each other again, so to bring us all together, we get the team back together, it’s fun.”
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