U.S. Alpine Championships: Just finishing was a prize for local skiers

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Sam Conzelman, skiing for Carrabassett Valley Academy skis down her second run of the Ladies Giant Slalom at the US Alpine Championships at Sugarloaf on Monday.

CARRABASSETT VALLEY — Sam Conzelman could be forgiven if she was a little nervous going down Sugarloaf’s Narrow Gauge trail on Monday, even though she’d skied the hill an estimated one thousand times.

The Carrabassett Valley Academy competitor was getting ready to take her first run in the women’s giant slalom at the U.S. Alpine Championships when she heard ski patrol get called to a skier down on the course. Her CVA teammate, Emma Kearing, had gone two places ahead of her, and Conzelman thought it was Kearing who had fallen.

It wasn’t Kearing — not that Conzelman was aware of that fact — but even still she said she wasn’t nervous, though admitted she was “a little wigged out.”

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Conzelman completed her run, which was a feat in itself. — The skier directly ahead of her and last two after her all fell.

That’s what kind of day it was at Sugarloaf, with sleet, freezing rain, wind and snow all making life difficult after a weekend of sunshine.

Bates College skier Brielle Antonelli was in a similar spot as Conzelman, though her Bobcat teammate Sierra Ryder did go down three spots ahead of her. Antonelli was able to make it all the way down to survive for a second run.

“It was definitely a challenge,” Antonelli said. “I mean the wind and stuff, the sleet coming down pretty hard. The track was pretty good, though. The snow held up. It’s pretty solid right now. So at least you don’t have to worry about that; it’s pretty slick. But it’s definitely an interesting one out there.”

Like Conzelman, Antonelli has experience racing on Narrow Gauge, and she said that helped her deal with Monday’s less-than-ideal conditions.

“Definitely a comfort level, especially when your visibility is bad,” Antonelli said. “You know the trail, you know what the course is going to feel like.”

Antonelli wasn’t aware that Ryder had fallen, which might have helped her nerves before her own first run.

“I know her ski popped up, I talked to her after,” Antonelli said. “But you’re in the start, the coaches don’t really tell you that because they don’t want to freak you out before you go. We were told up there ‘just kind of hold on, it’s not really going to feel good.'”

Neither Antonelli nor Conzelman were completely happy with their first runs, even if just finishing was “an accomplishment on its own,” according to Conzelman. The top 30 skiers after the first run get seeded to compete for the win in the second run, and both local skiers were hoping to make the cut. Antonelli was at the cut-off point after her run before being bumped, while Conzelman finished just outside in 32nd after her first run.

Colby College skier Sandra Schoepke, who was seeded 31st entering the event, did land in the top 30 after the first run. She was seeded 30th, and therefore was the first competitor to go down for the second run — which came after a delay and a “slip” run by the skiers to clear the course.

“I mean, I love it because I love being the first one on the course,” Schoepke said. “But the icy conditions and the snow that’s coming in definitely can make some people a little timid, so you’ve got to stay focused, stay in the good mindset.”

Schoepke set the pace for the second run, clocking in under one minute. That bumped her up to 17th overall when all was said and done. But she said she was just happy to get into the top 30 after making a “big mistake” in the her first, not to mention recording a pair of DNFs at Nationals two years ago when it was also held at Sugarloaf.

Conzelman and Antonelli ended up finishing 20th and 24th, respectively, in their first crack at Nationals

“It’s an honor just to be here, and race the top of the top,” Antonelli said. “It’s just incredible to be a part of, even if you’re not right in there at the top.”

wkramlich@sunjournal.com

Brielle Antonelli, skiing for Bates College, skis her second run of the Ladies Giant Slalom at the US Alpine Championships at Sugarloaf on Monday.

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