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O’Brien, Winters Win U.S. Alpine Championship Slalom Titles

By Tom Horrocks
March, 24 2019
Men's podium
Luke Winters (center) took his second win of the 2019 U.S. Alpine Championship Sunday at Waterville Valley Resort. (Chris Cohen Images)

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.”

Men’s slalom
Women’s slalom