Clark wins fourth straight U.S. DH title |

Clark wins fourth straight U.S. DH title

AP photo Kirsten Clark skis on the edge to win the women's downhill race during the U.S. Alpine Ski Championships Saturday in Carrabassett Valley, Maine.

SUGARLOAF, Maine – Local favorites Bode Miller and Kirsten Clark, who earned their racing spurs at Sugarloaf while students at nearby Carrabassett Valley Academy, returned Saturday and each won the downhill race opening the 2006 U.S. Alpine Championships. It was the seventh U.S. gold medal for each.Miller won the men’s DH title in 1 minute, 15.27 seconds with Daron Rahlves taking the silver medal at 1:15.88. JJ Johnson, the winner Friday in the FIS downhill which traditionally opens the championships races, was bronze medalist among the 71 racers. Miller’s victory completed the circle for the reigning DH world champion, who now has won nationals gold in giant slalom (1998), super-G (2003), combined (2002, ’03) and slalom (’02, ’03).Clark, the only American to win four consecutive U.S. downhill championships, had a winning time on the Narrow Gauge racing trail of 1:19.65. Julia Mancuso was second in 1:20.14 and Stacey Cook, completing a podium of Olympic teammates, was third in the field of 53.Miller: Experience was a key factorOn a cloudy day with temperatures in the upper 20s, Rahlves skied seventh and held the lead in his final downhill until Miller came down 15th. He had a faster split through the top of the 1.9K course and poured it on past the Headwall, over Kangaroo Jump and down to the finish.”They were tough conditions up there. It was pretty bouncy, the snow was aggressive and the flat light made it tricky. It was a day when experience helps. … This hill’s not as challenging as a World Cup hill, but they could set it really difficult. The only thing that’s lacking is the air (jumps),” Miller said.Rahlves laughed in the finish, noting, “I’m just trying to make it down alive….”The run was good up top. There were some scrappy sections here and there. I think it’s good to have something like that. … had a fun run; I’m pretty psyched about that.Over the past two seasons, he and Miller have finished 1-2 or tied for first a half-dozen times on the World Cup, including once at the 2005 World Championships. Each said it was kick Saturday to have more than 100 young skiers at the start to help get racers energized for the DH. “It was pretty cool,” Rahlves said. “About 100 kids up there, just chanting. It’s something we don’t have in the U.S. ever, except for World Cups.”

Clark: Eastern conditions are ‘great'”It’s always good to come back and compete at Sugarloaf, to race at my home mountain. Thanks, Sugarloaf,” Clark said with a big grin.After two days of training runs and two days of racing by 120 skiers, she said, the course was “a little bumpier and rattly. It’s good, hard, eastern ice and snow up there – it’s great for racing.”Victory at the championships is worth $3,000 with $1,500 for a silver medal and $750 for finishing third. The championships continue Sunday with super-G.2006 T U.S. ALPINE CHAMPIONSHIPSTall Timber ClassicSugarloaf, Maine – March 25, 2006Men’s Downhill1. Bode Miller, Bretton Woods, N.H., 1:15.27

2. Daron Rahlves, Sugar Bowl, Calif., 1:15.883. JJ Johnson, Park City, Utah, 1:16.144. Scott Macartney, Redmond, Wash., 1:16.405. Steve Nyman, Orem, Utah, 1:16.436. Erik Fisher, Middleton, Idaho, 1:16.737. Ted Ligety, Park City, Utah, 1:16.798. Marco Sullivan, Squaw Valley, Calif., 1:16.899. Kevin Francis, Bend, Ore., 1:17.0910. Warner Nickerson, Gilford, N.H., 1:17.15Women’s Downhill1. Kirsten Clark, Raymond, Maine, 1:19.65

2. Julia Mancuso, Olympic Valley, Calif., 1:20.143. Stacey Cook, Truckee, Calif., 1:20.224. Resi Stiegler, Jackson Hole, Wyo., 1:20.685. Megan McJames, Park City, Utah, 1:20.746. Julia Littman, Vail, 1:20.777. Tereza Charova, Czech Republic, 1:20.828. Bryna McCarty, Concord, Vt., 1:20.919. Chelsea Marshall, Pittsfield, Vt., 1:21.0910. Jonna Mendes, South Lake Tahoe, Calif., 1:21.24Vail, Colorado

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