CARRABASSETT VALLEY, Maine ??вЂќ Unheralded Caitlin Ciccone (Bethlehem, NH), who shifted her emphasis to running gates this season, laid down the fastest second run Wednesday and then held off Olympic champion Julia Mancuso (Olympic Valley, CA) to win the giant slalom concluding the 2006 TD Banknorth U.S. Alpine Championships.
In collecting the first U.S. title of her career, Ciccone had a two-run time of 2:17.96 to top Mancuso by .14 with newly crowned super G champion Stacey Cook (Truckee, CA) taking the bronze medal in 2:18.24. First place is worth $3,000 with $1,500 for the silver medal and $750 for third place.
Ciccone, 21, and Cook, 21, are first-time U.S. champs while Mancuso, who had been the defending GS gold medalist – and who turned 22 earlier this month, has seven titles and has been on the podium at nationals in 15 of her last 16 races. In addition, slalom gold medalist Kaylin Richardson (Edina, MN) took her first U.S. championship on Sugarloaf’s sunny Narrow Gauge/Crib Works racing run.
“I just went out there and went for it,” said Ciccone, who skied for the Franconia (NH) Ski Club and Burke Mountain Academy (VT) before making the U.S. Ski Team. “When I’m just thinking about my skiing, I’m okay…and I was confident. I wanted to do it.”
Winner wanted more GS/SL in her routine
She was second in the 2006 NorAm super G standings – assuring her of her first World Cup starts next winter – and third in slalom this winter, but only 11th in GS points. “I trained well in GS this year but had bad luck, but I wanted to ski more tech [slalom, GS].
“I put that on myself. I’ve done a lot of speed [downhill, super G], but I decided have it in tech, so I talked with my coaches and said I wanted to do it.” So, does she consider herself a tech skier? “I’m an all-eventer…and people know it now.”
Mancuso led Ciccone by .25 in the first run with Cook another .06 off the pace. However, as she approached the final run of her season, Mancuso said she just couldn’t get the “Go fast.” message from her head to the rest of her body.
“I was lightheaded in the start,” she said. “I had two fine runs, didn’t make any big mistakes…”
When Ciccone laughingly suggested Mancuso “threw ’em sideways at the finish” (i.e., purposely slowed to give her the win), she just shook her head, as if to say “not true.”
“I wanted to [ski fast] in the start. My head was there but my body
wasn’t. I couldn’t get it to cooperate on my last run.”
Mancuso: “I needed inspiration”
She said she held back in a couple of places to ensure she finished her run but she had no gas in her tank at the end. “I needed inspiration,” she said with grin.
“Watching the girls struggle and struggle on the World Cup, it’s really fun to come back and get beat at the nationals. I’m the only girl making second run in the World Cup in GS, most of the races, 80 percent of the races.
So, for me to come back and have two decent runs, I had no major mistakes, and get beat…I think it’s a really positive thing for them to look at, that they are good skiers and they can be up there with me in the World Cup,” the Olympic champ said.
Ciccone said she would race in the Super Series events at Lutsen, Minn., while Mancuso said she’s done.
Ciccone’s victory was good for the East in the Tom Garner Regions Cup tally, but Mancuso and Cook helped the West keep the East at arm’s length and win by 17 points. West skiers, based on the World Cup points breakdown for the top 30, had 2,991 points to 2,174 for the East. Rocky/Central Region, with three big guns – Caroline Lalive (Steamboat Springs, CO), Sarah Schleper (Vail, CO) and Kristina Koznick (Eagan, MN) – out with injury plus Lindsey Kildow (Vail, CO) missing super G and the events after a crash in downhill, never had a chance to contend.
2006 TD BANKNORTH U.S. ALPINE CHAMPIONSHIPS
Sugarloaf, ME – March 29
Women’s Giant Slalom
1. Caitlin Ciccone, Bethlehem, N.H., 2:17.96
2. Julia Mancuso, Olympic Valley, Calif., 2:18.10
3. Stacey Cook, Truckee, Calif., 2:18.24
4. Megan McJames, Park City, Utah, 2:18.64
5. Libby Ludlow, Bellevue, Wash., 2:19.69
6. Lauren Ross, Stowe, Vt., 2:19.98
7. Jenny Lathrop, North Conway, N.H., 2:22.99
8. Laurel Carter, Norwich, Vt., 2:23.10
9. Megan Hughes, Killington, Vt., 2:23.72
10. Abbi Lathrop, North Conway, N.H., 2:24.38
For complete results: