Nina O’Brien skis down the slalom course at Sugarloaf on Thursday afternoon during the slalom portion of the women’s Alpine Combined event. O’Brien won the women’s Alpine combined national title at the U.S. Alpine championships. Sun Journal photo by Andree Kehn

 

CARRABASSETT VALLEY — Heading into the slalom leg of the women’s combined event at the U.S. Alpine speed championships at Sugarloaf on Thursday, Keely Cashman, Nina O’Brien and AJ Hurt were separated at the top by 0.25 seconds.

At the top of the slalom trail, the skiers could see only the first part of each skier’s race. That meant O’Brien had no idea what Hurt did on her run.

O’Brien, though, wasn’t thinking about anything except her own slalom run, and it paid off as her time of 43.90 seconds was the fastest of the day and helped her leapfrog Cashman, who led after the super-G leg, for the combined title.

“I actually tried to ignore sort of the whole super-G portion and just think about slalom today,” O’Brien said. “It felt good. I was trying to go for it but also stay loose and relaxed but also keep it moving. I made a few little mistakes, but I think I recovered well and it was good.”

The conditions were pristine Thursday, as they were the whole week at Sugarloaf. The sun was shining and the track held firm for the women, which made for some fast times.

“The snow softened up a touch since the speed runs,” O’Brien said. “It was nice, it was still firm but running towards the end of the flip was no problem.”

O’Brien’s 43.90 was four-hundredths of a second faster than Hurt’s run, which put her two-tenths of a second ahead of Hurt for the title.

The 18-year-old Hurt said the track felt brand new when she raced.

“The snow doesn’t have that slick that it had yesterday,” Hurt said. “It’s really grippy. We ran 28, 29, 30 (skiers) and I don’t know about them but it felt like no one had touched it.”

AJ Hurt skis down the course at Sugarloaf on Thursday afternoon to a second-place finish in the slalom portion of the women’s Alpine combined event at the U.S. Alpine speed championships. Sun Journal photo by Andree Kehn

Cashman, Hurt and O’Brien are teammates and good friends. There is competition between the three, but their bond is closer than their times at the finish line.

“It’s awesome,” Hurt said. “We all have a good friendly competitiveness and there’s no animosity or anything. It’s good to be with them and share the podium with them.”

Hurt focused on the lines she had to take to get on the podium. Many skiers throughout the day said that the course was tougher than most slalom courses on combined events.

“In my slaloms, just in general, I’m focusing on just staying low and getting those angles that I need to get the skis to come back,” Hurt said. “I did that pretty well.”

Cashman ran a time of 45.62 seconds, good enough for Thursday’s fifth-fastest time which placed her third on the podium.

Following Cashman to round out the top-five are Patricia Mangan (45.23 seconds) and Isabella Wright (46.54)

Carrabassett Valley Academy’s Ella Spear entered Thursday’s slalom in 12th place and finished in 11th overall in the combined.

Keely Cashman skis down the slalom course at Sugarloaf on Thursday afternoon, on her way to a third-place finish in the slalom portion of the women’s Alpine combined. Sun Journal photo by Andree Kehn