Ankeny, Keeler take home slalom wins
VAIL ” Michael Ankeny’s giant slalom victory on Friday did just what he said it would do ” take the pressure off for Saturday’s slalom race.
Ankeny had two stellar runs on Saturday to earn another gold in the J3 Rocky Mountain/Central Junior Olympics and to defend his slalom crown from last year.
“It really helped,” Ankeny said of his giant slalom win.
After the first run, SSCV’s Hunter Schleper was in first, 0.01 seconds ahead of Ankeny.
“I was thinking just go as hard as I could. Just go, go go. I had nothing to lose, so I went for it,” said Ankeny, who finished both runs in a combined 1 minute, 27.37 seconds.
Schleper had the second-quickest final run and landed on the podium for the fourth of four races.
“I had to hold back a little on this one,” Schleper said, noting that if he didn’t finish, he could have jeopardized his chances at winning the overall title. “I was hoping maybe to do a little better.”
Schleper’s second-place finish Saturday, along with similar finishes in the giant slalom and super-G, as well as win in the downhill propelled him to an overall victory.
Though still an amateur, Schleper had a financial incentive to hold back a little on his final slalom run. With his overall championship, he received a gold medallion that is good for all resorts in North America.
Crested Butte’s Tyler McKnight rounded out podium finishers (1:29.57), while SSCV’s Kitt Flowers (1:30.81) and Cody Unicume (1:31.12) finished fourth and fifth, respectively.
“Being in third and getting bumped off the podium is a little disappointing,” said Flowers, who was in third until Ankeny’s run.
Still, Flowers was happy with how he attacked the course.
“Running the combinations has always been my issue, and I did it today, which was a jump for me,” Flowers said.
Unicume bounced back from not finishing his second run Friday.
“I’ve been good coming back from a bad day before,” Unicume said. “I like the slalom a lot, though it’s not my best event.”
Crested Butte’s Julia Keeler earned a 0.41 second lead with her first run, and held on to win the girls’ slalom in 1:40.34.
“I had a pretty good lead, but everyone here is a really good skier. When I crossed the finish line, it was kind of up in the air,” Keeler said.
When it was announced that Keeler won, she was all hugs in the finish area. Last year, Keeler’s best finish came in the giant slalom.
“I really like the super-G and giant slalom, but I really understand slalom,” Keeler said.
Steamboat Springs’ Anna Marno finished second (1:40.52), for her second podium of the week.
“I haven’t been able to lay one of those down this year yet,” Marno said of her second slalom run.
Winter Park’s Tracie Kronenberger (1:40.86) had the fastest second run to move into third place overall.
SSCV’s Whitney Setterberg (1:42.10) and Delainey Ackerman (1:42.16) both had sub-48-second final runs and finished eighth and ninth, respectively. Jocelyn Irwin (1:42.76) was right behind Ackerman, making for her fourth top-10 finish of the week.
Ackerman, who won the downhill, super-G and giant slalom easily won the girls’ overall championship.
Winners in this week’s races qualified to compete in the World Junior Championships in Whistler, British Columbia this spring.
Other SSCV girls’ finishers in Saturday’s race include Marisa Ammaturo (21st, 1:46.22), Lizzie Seibert (39th, 1:53.21), Mary Sackbauer (40th, 1:53.42) and Ashley Atkinson (56th, 2:00.45).
Abby Ghent was in the top 30 after her first run, but did not finish her second run.
On the boys’ side, other SSCV finishers were Andreas Calabrese (41st, 1:43.70), Connor Klein (45th, 1:44.79) and J.D. Mobley (45th, 1:44.89).
Sports Writer Ian Cropp can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 14631, or email@example.com.