Cook, Francis win at U.S. Alpine Championships |

Cook, Francis win at U.S. Alpine Championships

Associated PressVail, CO Colorado
AP Photo/Toby TalbotKevin Francis races down the course in the men's Super G at the U.S. Alpine Championships in Carrabassett Valley, Maine, Sunday. Francis won the event.

CARRABASSETT VALLEY, Maine Battling gusting, swirling winds, Stacey Cook and Kevin Francis claimed the super G titles at the U.S. Alpine Championships.Cook collected her second national title when she edged teammate Leanne Smith by five hundredths of a second. Cook also won the super G crown on the same hill in 2006.Megan McJames was third while the World Cup overall champ Lindsey Vonn finished fourth.”I just got blasted with headwind on the bottom,” said Vonn, who started 10th. “There’s nothing you can do about it. It’s just luck of the draw. Some got headwind, some got tailwind, some got side wind. It was kind of a tornado going around circling the mountain.”Cook said early in her run she was concerned about the wind, but just kept it going. “I thought for sure I had gotten that headwind. I seemed to have gotten a lot of those this year so maybe today was my break,” she said.Francis said the wind was blowing in his face, too, as he stood at the top of the Narrow Gauge trail at Sugarloaf waiting for his start. Racers get a 10 second window they must start within, so he waited out a gust and started during a brief lull. From there it was just a case of believing in the course report from his coaches.”They sent up a sweet report,” he said. “I thought I set up (for a steep pitch) a little too much, but it worked out because I carried a lot speed down there.”Francis beat out Bryon Friedman for his first national title and rounded out a season portfolio that includes the Nor-Am super G crown and some strong results in European Cup racing.He agreed it was likely his season would be defined more by the national title than the Nor-Am title that guarantees him starts in World Cup super G’s next season.”You have to love coming to nationals and skiing well,” he said with a smile.Friedman said he may have kept his place on the U.S. Ski Team because of his result in the race. He had missed the better part of three seasons after sustaining severe injuries in crashes at Chamonix, France, in 2005, and then re-breaking his leg at the beginning of last season.”The goal at the beginning of the season was to ski without pain, and here I am, skiing without pain,” he said.But the coaches, he said, have continued to escalate the criteria he has had to meet to stay on the team. This result, he hoped, would help convince them he belongs.Marco Sullivan, winner of the prestigious Arlberg-Kandahar downhill in Chamonix, France in January, was third and said he felt he had a bit of a target on his back in the races here.”I have the best points,” he said referring to his international ranking, “so I knew all these guys would be coming after me.”He finished third on the day, marking his sixth career podium in national championship competition. He won the super G crown in 2002 and the downhill title last season.The weather, despite the swirling winds, was a marked improvement over any the competitors have seen since the first racing at Sugarloaf was canceled last Wednesday.

Eagles Kirsten Cooper topped all local finishers in Sundays super-G at the U.S. Alpine National Championships.Cooper, a member of the U.S. Development Team, took eighth at 1 minute, 16.92 seconds, and was second among J1 racers.Ski & Snowboard Club Vails Erika Ghent followed up her best career finish at nationals Saturday (11th in the slalom) with a 13th-place finish Sunday. Ghent was third among J1 racers and 0.01 second behind U.S. Ski Team racer Libby Ludlow.SSCVs Delainey Ackerman was 22nd for her best finish at nationals.Im feeling really good, said Ackerman, who competed at her first national championships last year. The course was really fun.Ackerman was third among J2s, with the first two finishing 20th and 21st.I was definitely happy with who I was next to at the finish, she said. I wasnt too far out of the top, too. I didnt finish the super-G at J2 nationals, so I was wondering where I was going to stand.SSCVs Joelle Chavalier was 41st, while teammate Abby Ghent was 45th.On the boys side, SSCVs Nathan Asoian was the top local finisher in 16th. Asoian tied his previous best finish at nationals, which was during a giant slalom last year in Alaska.SSCVs Will Gregorak was 28th while Iced Out Racings Hunter Schleper was 35th tops among J2s. Iced Out Racings Kitt Flowers was 63rd, with teammate Kieffer Christianson 74th.Sports Writer Ian Cropp contributed to this story

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