Aspen, CO – Plymouth, N.H.’s Julia Ford and Will Gregorak, of Longmont, Colo., were crowned downhill champions Wednesday at the U.S. Alpine Championships in Aspen. Ford handily took the women’s title by almost a second over Park City, Utah’s Kiley Staples, while Gregorak was edged by Canadian Dustin Cook by a mere two-hundredths on a wind shortened course.nThe first-time champions follow in the footsteps of U.S. greats like five-time Olympic medalist Bode Miller and four-time World Championships medalist Julia Mancuso. Defending champions Travis Ganong and Leanne Smith did not compete after racing both super G and downhill at the 2011 World Alpine Ski Championships last week in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany.
Gusting winds lowered start to create an incredibly tight men’s race with only three-hundredths separating the top three and .57 separating the top 10. Third place finisher Erik Fisher, of Middleton, Idaho, was just one-hundredth behind Gregorak.
Ford, however, ran away with the women’s title .88 in front of Staples with U.S. Development Team member Abby Ghent, of Edwards, Colo., .34 back in third to win the junior title. Top men’s junior was Brennan Rubie of Salt Lake City, Utah, also a member of the Development squad, who finished 12th.
“When we first got up there to inspect the wind was blowing really hard, so I kind of guessed that it was going to be moved down,” said Ford, a three-time winner of the Eastern Ski Associations Golden Ski Award for top juniors. “If they didn’t move it down we would have went flying off the second jump.”
With the long flat no longer a factor, the ‘Aztec’ pitch proved to be a critical section and on a shortened course, it ran much different than Tuesday’s NorAm downhill prelude also won by Ford.
“I had a lot of confidence after yesterday. I knew what I needed to do. It was more about executing than anything else,” said Ford, who leads the NorAm downhill standings over Staples.
“The more you shorten the course the tighter it’s going to be,” said Gregorak, who earned his first Audi FIS Alpine World Cup start earlier this season. “We’ve had four runs on this course already and I’ve struggled on the difficult section. Finally I got it together through there and skied really well.”
The NorAm Cup resumes Thursday and Aspen and continue through Feb. 18. The remaining U.S. Alpine Championship events including super G, giant slalom and slalom will be held March 31-April 3 in Crested Butte, Colo., just one weekend after the Nature Valley NASTAR National Championships.
U.S. Alpine Championships
Aspen, CO – Feb. 16, 2011
1. Dustin Cook, Canada, 1:12.40
2. Will Gregorak, Longmont, CO, 1:12.42
3. Erik Fisher, Middleton, ID, 1:12.43
1. Julia Ford, Plymouth, NH, 1:14.15
2. Kiley Staples, Park City, UT, 1:15.03
3. Abby Ghent, Edwards, CO, 1:15.37