Six Vermont Racers Earn Podiums at Nationals

Just after Alice Merryweather, a Stratton Mountain School grad, took the national tilte in downhill, six Vermonters took  top spots this past weekend at Toyota U.S. Alpine Championships at New Hampshire’s Waterville Valley Resort.

Among those who earned podium finishes were Starksboro’s Ryan Cochran-Siegle (giant slalom), Waitsfield’s Sandy Veitze (slalom) in the men’s field. In the women’s races, University of Vermont’s Paula Moltzan (slalom),  Stratton Mountain School grad Alice Merryweather   (see our story on her, “What’s It Like to Race World Cup?) .

Redneck Racing’s Tucker Marshall made it to the finals in parallel slalom but had to settle for a silver when a back injury prevented him from competing in the final race.

Meanwhile, Stratton Mountain School student Mac Forehand, age 17 is poised to win the overall Freeski World Cup in slopestyle if all goes well for him this weekend (March 28-29) in the final race in Silvaplana, Switzerland.

Race reports by Tom Horrocks/US Ski and Snowboard

GIANT SLALOM

Ryan Cochran-Siegle (Starksboro, Vt.) won his seventh U.S. title taking giant slalom victories at the Toyota U.S. Alpine Championships at New Hampshire’s Waterville Valley Resort. Waitsfield’s Drew Duffy tied for seventh in the GS and Robby Kelley, Cochran-Siegle’s cousin and also a Starksboro resident, was 17th. Tim Gavett (Waitsfield, Vt.) was the top junior finisher, coming in 10th.

Racing under bright sunshine on a hard, fast track, Keely Cashman took a 0.23-second first-run lead in the women’s field over Dartmouth ski racer Tricia Mangan (Derby, N.Y), and .80-second lead over the red-hot Nina O’Brien, who was shooting for her fifth-consecutive U.S. Alpine Championships victory after winning the super-G and alpine combined at Sugarloaf, Maine, and the parallel, and slalom events at Waterville earlier in the week.

Paula Moltzan 2019 U.S. National Alpine Championships at Waterville GS Photo © Chris Cohen // photo may be used for editorial use only

O’Brien came out attacking, posting the fastest second-run time to put the pressure on Mangan and Cashman. Mangan was the first to take a shot, but came up short, leaving Cashman to put a stop to O’Brien’s win streak. With the warm sunshine beating down on Waterville’s World Cup course, Cashman carved through the fast, salted layers to post the second-fastest time and edge O’Brien for the victory. O’Brien settled for second, and Mangan rounded out the podium in third.

“It’s always been a huge goal of mine (to win a U.S. title),” Cashman said. “I remember when (the U.S. Alpine Championships) came to Squaw when I was a U14, and I remember watching everyone, and now to be sitting on top of the podium really means a lot. it’s a good stepping stone, and this will really slingshot me into next season, so I’m really happy about it.”

Cashman was also the top junior finisher with Lisa Olsson of Sweden in second, and Claire Thomas (Salt Lake City, Utah) in third.

In the men’s race, Cochran-Siegle, who didn’t start the parallel or slalom events over the weekend at Waterville after winning both the downhill and super-G title last week at Sugarloaf, turned a .16-second first-run deficit to Brian McLaughlin (Topsfield, Mass.) into a .37-second margin of victory after posting the fastest second-run time.

McLaughlin finished second, with 2018 U.S. giant slalom champion Tommy Ford (Bend, Ore.) rounding out the podium in third.

Tuesday GS victory was Cochran-Siegle’s seventh U.S. Alpine Championship win of his career, dating back to his downhill title in 2012.

RESULTS
Men’s giant slalom
Women’s giant slalom

SLALOM

Nina O’Brien (San Francisco, Calif.) and Luke Winters (Gresham, Ore.) are both on a late-season hot streak after winning slalom titles at the 2019 Toyota U.S. Alpine Championships Sunday at New Hampshire’s Waterville Valley Resort.

O’Brien won her fourth-consecutive U.S. title by taking Sunday’s victory under warm sunshine on Waterville’s World Cup Course, and Winters won his second title to back up his alpine combined win Thursday at Maine’s Sugarloaf Mountain.

“I didn’t expect really to win that combined because I hadn’t trained much super-G, but I’ve been training slalom all year, so I knew I had an advantage in the slalom, and then to come here and do this, get two wins after never winning a national title before, is pretty fun,” Winters said.

But it wasn’t easy. Taking a slim .07-second lead over Sandy Vietze (Warren, Vt.) in the first run, a slight bobbly midway down the rutted second run almost cost Winters a shot at the title. But he dug deep into his bag of rut-skiing experience to pull out the victory.

“It was pretty rough out there,” Winters said. “It’s a good thing I grew up at Mount Hood Ski Bowl and skied the wet, salted, rutty snow growing up. So when it’s like that, it tends to help me.”

Garrett Driller (Tahoe City, Calif.), Saturday’s parallel slalom champion, finished second, with Vietze rounding out the podium in third. Jimmy Krupka (Waitsfield, Vt.) was the top junior finisher, followed by Jett Seymour (Steamboat Springs, Colo.) in second and Tim Garrett in third.

In the women’s slalom, O’Brien proved unbeatable once again, winning for the fourth time in the 2019 U.S. Alpine Championships following victories in parallel slalom, super-G and alpine combined. O’Brien now has seven U.S. titles to her credit, and she made it look easy Sunday, taking a 1.45-second advantage over Paula Moltzan (Burlington, Vt.) into the second run.

“I knew I had a good lead, so I didn’t need to reach for some crazy speed that I’ve never skied before, but at the same time, all these girls they are pushing, they are hammering, so I couldn’t go easy (in the second run) by any means,” O’Brien said. “So I just had to ski solid and make clean good turns.”

As the defending U.S. slalom champion though, O’Brien did admit that the butterflies were fluttering at the start. “I was feeling nervous at the top and I was like ‘OK, just think about the skiing’ and it’s working out, so I’m happy,” she said.

Moltzan held on for second, as Tricia Mangan (Derby, N.Y.) was third. Keely Cashman (Strawberry, Calif.) was the top junior, followed by Emma Hall (Avon, Colo.) in second and Caroline Jones (Edwards, Colo.) in third.

The 2019 U.S. Alpine Championships continue Monday at Waterville Valley with women’s giant slalom. O’Brien, the 2015 giant slalom champion, is excited for one final race of the season before heading back to the classroom for the spring semester at Dartmouth College on Tuesday.

“I think I’m going to just sort of keep the same mindset (I had for slalom) and not worry about it,” she said of trying to make it five-straight U.S. Alpine Championship victories. “I feel good about my GS, so we’ll see what happens, but hopefully it will be fun.”

RESULTS
Men’s slalom
Women’s slalom

PARALLEL SLALOM

Different venue, and a totally different first-time championship event, but the same outcome for Nina O’Brien (San Francisco, Calif.) as she won her third-consecutive Toyota U.S. Alpine Championships title in parallel slalom at New Hampshire’s Waterville Valley Resort Saturday.

Fresh off her super-G and alpine combined titles earlier this week at Maine’s Sugarloaf Mountain, O’Brien was hot from the start in Saturday’s race, posting the second-fastest qualifying time, and then easily moving through the opening rounds and into the semifinals and finals where she defeated Canada’s Stephanie Currie for the victory.

“I’ve had a few good ones lately,” she said referring to her past few days of racing. “I’ve actually never won a parallel before, so this was a good day for me. Certainly a long day, but I think it was fun for everyone racing and watching.”

2019 U.S. National Alpine Championships at Waterville
Photo © Heidi Winslow // photo may be used for editorial use only

Currie, who also competes for nearby Dartmouth College, settled for second as Alice Merryweather, who won the U.S. Championships downhill title on Tuesday, rounded out the podium in third.

On the men’s side, World Pro Ski Tour experience proved to be the deciding factor as the top three all recently competed in pro events that featured the parallel slalom format.

“The World Pro Tour definitely gave a little added experience, knowing how to come out of the start gate, and how scary it is to have someone right next to you going down the course,” noted winner Garrett Driller (Tahoe City, Calif.).

Driller, who won his first U.S. title, qualified third and advanced through the event to face off against Tucker Marshall (Pittsfield, Vt.) in the finals. However, Marshall injured his back two gates from the finish in his semi-final victory and was unable to start the finals.

“We have matched up a couple of times on the Pro Tour, and we have gone back and forth in winning runs,” Driller said. “He was really hoping to get in there on the finals with me. He made it there, but his back went out and it was a bummer that he didn’t get to do the final race against me.”

“The day started out really good,” said Marshall, who qualified 11th. “I was feeling really good on my skis…but about two gates from the finish (in his semifinal run against Alex Leever), I slide into a rut and compressed my back…and kind of limped into the finish and into the final,” said Marshall said, who sat out the first run of the finals, but did attempt to start the second to no avail as the pain was too great.

Lever (Vail, Colo.) defeated recently crowned U.S. alpine combined champion Luke Winters (Gresham, Ore.) for third.

The parallel slalom format has proven a huge success on the FIS World Cup with city events in Sweden, Norway, and Russia over the past few seasons. Introduced to the U.S. Alpine Championships program this year, the athletes and the fans embraced the head-to-head format that filled the day with aggressive racing.

“I love this format,” Marshall said. “It’s making a comeback…with younger generations getting into it. There are more races. We had one NorAm this year where I was on the podium again, so I like the event and I can only imagine it’s going to get bigger and bigger.”

Up next, the men and women compete in slalom Sunday at Waterville where O’Brien is the defending champion and will be shooting for her seventh career U.S. title to continue her outstanding season where she also won the overall NorAm, slalom, giant slalom and super-G titles.

“I feel like I’ve found some consistency in my skiing this year, and I was happy to see that show up in my speed races as well,”  O’Brien said. “So I’m hoping to close off the season here in Waterville on another good note.”

RESULTS
Men’s parallel slalom
Women’s parallel slalom

In the battle for the Tom Garner Region’s Cup, the Eastern Region won with 3,436 points. West was second with 2,063, and Rocky/Central was third with 1,088. This is the 30th year of the Tom Garner Region’s Cup and over the past 30 years, the West has won 21 times, Rocky/Central 5, and East 4. The Region’s Cup was re-named after Tom Garner, a former Rocky/Central Director, who was committed to athletic excellence and providing athletes with opportunities to succeed and develop as competitors and people. Tom’s son Ian is a member of our U.S. Ski Team men’s coaching staff.

Opener: Tucker Marshall in the paralell slalom. Photo by Chris Cohen/US Ski and Snowboard

Lisa Lynn

Editor of VT SKI + RIDE and Vermont Sports. Skier. Sometime snowboarder. Future teleskier. Mountain creature.

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