GIRDWOOD, Alaska (AP) – There’s something about Mount Alyeska that agrees with Alpine ski racers Kaylin Richardson and Marco Sullivan.

Both won downhill events at the U.S. Alpine Championships on Saturday, mastering the same mountain where they won titles in 2007.

Richardson finished in 1 minute, 10.18 seconds to edge Julia Mancuso (1:10.53) and Stacey Cook (1:10.72) for her second downhill championship.

Sullivan finished in 1:08.07, ahead of Erik Fisher (1:08.44) and Jeremy Transue (1:08.51).

“This definitely is a hill that I have confidence in, because I’ve done well here before,” Richardson said.

Two Maine racers competed. Sam Sweetser, 24, of Cumberland Center finished 29th and Ben Morse, 16, of Carrabassett valley Academy, was 42nd.

Most racers were just happy to finally compete.

Heavy snow and high wind forced the cancellation of mandatory practice runs for the men’s and women’s downhill on Wednesday and Thursday, and an International Ski Federation (FIS) downhill race. Fog in the middle of the course canceled the super-G on Friday.

Shortly after the men’s race Saturday, ski officials were dealing with a new hazard: ash from Mount Redoubt, which erupted at 3:29 p.m.

Ten inches of new snow that started falling Friday night prompted officials to shorten the downhill run and women and men skied the same course.

“The one training run I’ve had on it this week was super slow and I didn’t ski that well, so I kind of just went into this run – and you know, ski racing, there’s so many variables out of your control – just do what you can do,” Richardson said. “I just went for it and it worked out for me.”

Things didn’t work out nearly as well for Lindsey Vonn, who just wrapped up her second World Cup overall and downhill title. Vonn slid wide near one of the final gates in soft snow and finished seventh.

Mancuso arrived in Alaska on Saturday morning, got to the mountain for a training run and managed to finish second.

“I just got here,” she said, laughing. “I was in Maui and I just flew in. So I got here this morning at 7. I missed all the snow.”

U.S. Ski Team member Ted Ligety fell on a practice run and was taken down the mountain in a sled. His condition was not known, but he was announced as a participant for the slalom Sunday.

Sullivan said the men’s race was a wild ride after all the new snow, which was filled with ruts after four runs between the men and women.

“The track was really soft,” he said. “You just had to hang on.”

Like Richardson, he didn’t hold back because of the ruts.

“If you hit those holes and you’re passive, it’s going to throw you more than if you’re driving through it,” he said. “You have to be really smart tactically to try and give a little bit in some places so you can cut above some of the holes and stuff but still carry a fast line. I think I chose wisely, tactically today.”

Sullivan said the men had been passing the time skiing in powder when there was too much snow for racing.

“We had some great skiing, just powder skiing,” he said. “Going out with all the boys and just having a great time.”

The national championships, after all, are one of the last events of the year and have a certain, laid-back social aspect that many of the riders enjoy.

“This definitely is not my most important race,” Sullivan said. “It’s basically an end of the year little notch in the belt, national champion, which is awesome to do, but I don’t take it with the same seriousness that I would a big World Cup race.”


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.