Alice McKennis wins super-G crown at nationals
CARRABASSETT VALLEY, Maine (AP) The race was all but wrapped up, the medals all but awarded.
Then along came 19-year-old Drew Duffy, who turned in a speedy and surprising run from a late starting position to win the men's super-G on Wednesday at the U.S. Alpine Championships. Duffy stole the show against a field that included an Olympic medalist and World Cup winners.
Starting 30th, Duffy had a run he described as a ''little out of control'' to finish in 1 minute, 19.73 seconds. He eclipsed American Steven Nyman by 0.04 seconds, while Travis Ganong was third.
''Pretty cool,'' said Duffy, who's from Warren, Vermont. ''Pretty amazing.''
Earlier in the day, Alice McKennis, of Glenwood Springs, Colorado, capped off a comeback season with her first national title in the women's super-G. This came as a surprise, too.
Well, to herself anyway.
McKennis made a mistake on the course at Sugarloaf resort and thought it had cost her the race. It didn't.
She glided through the course in 1 minute, 22.48 seconds to hold off Valerie Grenier of Canada by 0.10 seconds. American Jacqueline Wiles wound up third.
''This is totally unexpected,'' McKennis said in a phone interview after the event. ''I certainly never thought I'd win. I really didn't think a win was in the cards for me, just because my super-G is still improving.''
The 25-year-old McKennis returned to the World Cup circuit this season after a crash in March 2013 shattered the top of her shinbone near her knee into 30 pieces. McKennis needed 11 screws and a metal plate to stabilize her leg. She tried to make it back in time for the 2014 Sochi Olympics - even trained with Lindsey Vonn - but it didn't work out.
McKennis' best World Cup finish this season was 11th during a downhill race in Italy on Jan. 18.
''It was a solid year. Just wish it was a little bit better, maybe more top 10 finishes,'' McKennis said. ''But I feel like my skiing is headed in the right direction. I'm pretty happy.''
Missing from the field was Vonn, who will only serve as a forerunner for the giant slalom race later in the week. It's been a grinding season for Vonn as she returned from a knee injury. She captured the World Cup downhill and Super-G titles this season, along with becoming the most decorated female ski racer in history.
Julia Mancuso also skipped nationals to rest a sore hip.
Now, McKennis will take a break as she trades her ski poles for a paddle. She's going on a nine-day rafting trip through the Grand Canyon.
''It's going to be really cool,'' McKennis said.
For Duffy, the win brings a big boost in confidence. He hasn't competed on the World Cup circuit, but he held off some U.S. Ski Team veterans such as Nyman, who won a World Cup race in Italy in December, and Ganong, the silver-medal winner in the downhill last month at the world championships in Beaver Creek, Colorado.
Two-time Olympic super-G medalist Andrew Weibrecht finished seventh, while Tim Jitloff slid into fourth with Duffy's finish.
''Just seeing Steve and Travis down here, I think they were just as shocked as I was,'' Duffy said.