Lapanja Seizes Opportunity, Snags Giant Slalom National Title
For the second time in as many days, Lila Lapanja stood on the top of the podium at the U.S. Alpine Championships at Aspen Highlands, Colo.—this time in giant slalom—with a blazing-fast second run. Team X Alpine’s Storm Klomhaus (+.04) and Tricia Mangan (+.20) went 2-3 on the podium that saw a mere .20 second spread from first place to third place.
With U.S. Alpine Championships happening three weeks later than normal, athletes have had to maintain their patience and energy for an abnormally long time after an already challenging season, compounded by COVID-19 and travel restrictions. While top FIS Ski World Cup athletes like two-time Olympic champion Mikaela Shiffrin, and World Cup mainstays and top-10 finishers such as Paula Moltzan and Nina O’Brien taking are taking a much-deserved break, many athletes have seized the opportunity to snag some results on home soil to close the season.
Team X Alpine/University of Utah athlete Madi Hoffman (Australia) came out charging first run, taking the lead by a massive .90 margin over Klomhaus on the lengthy 1:17.23 second course. Taking into consideration that a standard giant slalom course length is about one minute, this course presented a challenge in length after an already lengthy season. Athletes crossed the finish line breathing heavily and out of gas. 20-year-old Land Rover U.S. Alpine Ski Team athlete AJ Hurt, who is coming off a full season on the World Cup, bouncing between speed and tech, was fourth after the first run, 1.2 seconds off the pace. Teammate, and World Cup slalom skier, Katie Hensien was sitting in eighth after the first run, but had a pretty hard crash second run and DNFed. She is thankfully OK.
While they didn’t fully reset the second run, organizers did “redress” the course and move the gates out to find a clean track, adding seconds on an already long track. The fastest second run time, clocked by Lapanja, was 1:24.37—over seven seconds longer than the first run. To put it simply, it was exhausting, and despite the warm weather, the Aspen Valley Ski & Snowboard Club (AVSC) and Aspen Highlands course crew once again made lemonade out of lemons.
“Today was definitely a tactical day, it paid to just have good skiing...it was not easy,” reflected Lapanja in the finish. It was probably the longest course that I’ve ever raced, and I think the slip and race crew did a phenomenal job keeping the conditions really good. We had a really hard surface in the morning, and the salt took pretty well for the second run.”
Heading into second run, Lapanja simplified her approach and made a goal to find the flow of the mountain and go with it, rather than fight it. “When I was inspecting second run, I just thought, ‘Ok, just ski smart, focus on some really simple technical things, and don’t panic...don’t try to fight the length of the course, don’t try to fight the conditions, because it’s going to win today if you do,’” she added. “It was just that long and that tough of a course.”
Hurt was looking to move up the second run, but ran into some trouble and made a really big mistake at the bottom of the first pitch, nearly skiing out. Hoffman, whose first run lead seemed untouchable, also made a mistake in that section, losing precious time and moving back to sixth overall. Canada’s Britt Richardson, who was in third after the first run, moved back to fifth overall, but as a 2003 birth year, she was the fastest among juniors. Rounding out the junior podium was Hoffman in second, followed by Land Rover U.S. Alpine Ski Team athlete Emma Resnick in third.
Up next, the women will take on the final day of the two-week-long 2021 U.S. Alpine Championships at Aspen Highlands, with slalom on Friday. U.S. Ski Team alumna and World Cup veteran and slalom podium finisher Resi Stiegler will celebrate her final career race.
Women’s giant slalom
2021 U.S. Alpine Championships at Aspen - Event Schedule
Friday, April 16, Slalom National Championships, Women
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