“Racer Ready? Beep…Beep…BEEP!” Kicking out of the start gates, athletes lit up two days of competitive NorAm giant slalom at Whiteface Mountain. The field shortened from the NorAm GS in Collingwood, and on both the men’s and women’s side, two U.S. Ski Team athletes ran the show, finding the fastest route to the finish line. AJ Hurt and Bridger Gile slayed the gold-medal positions.
While the women’s field confronted fairly decent weather, with softer snow surfaces and the men faced fog and rowdier weather conditions, all competitors were still gunning for the podium spotlight.
The two days of GS took off with the women arcing panel-to-panel, trying to find the most speed on the flats.
“Both runs of the GS were set very straight due to the soft snow and relatively flat hill,” AJ Hurt (USA) explained.
Although the trials of finding speed and letting the skis run remained prominent for this hill, AJ Hurt of the U.S. Ski team was able to overcome these challenges. She found crucial components of the hill that were necessary for her skis to run and for her to attack a straighter line. Wearing Bib 1, Hurt’s aggressive skiing kept her in that No. 1 position, with an overall time of 1:56.88. Just last week, Hurt was also able to reign in the gold medal at the NorAm GS in Georgian Peaks, Canada. Throughout both days of GS, Hurt demonstrated that she is making massive strides on her recovery from the crash in Lake Louise and painful bone bruising.
“I think I was in a pretty relaxed mindset, but also I was just really going for it and that helped me ski my best,” Hurt reflected on the day of racing.
Following Hurt, wearing Bib 3, Adriana Jelinkova of the Netherlands came down with a winning first run. Unfortunately, during the second run, she lost a little bit of time, which put her into silver medal overall, by just 0.13. Jelinkova (NED) has also been attending to an injury. She injured her back recently, which has been a tough component for her to overcome during this NorAm series.
“My focus was more on my back, I couldn’t really ski the speed races because of my back issues so I was happy to be able to move freely in the GS and just went for it actually,” Jelinkova said. “I was just happy to be able to race.”
Pushing her way into the bronze medal position, Patricia Mangan of the Dartmouth Ski Team found the podium for the fourth day in a row in this series at Whiteface. Mangan was able to put down two consistently fast runs, which propelled her across with a combined time that was 0.82 off of Hurt’s lead. Although it was the only day she did not take home the gold at Whiteface, she said, “GS was a lot of fun.”
Mangan reflected on the day, saying, “The snow was a bit soft with pretty easy course sets so everyone was sending it … I actually think skiing the super Gs was an advantage for the GS because the snow was similar, so the transition from super G to GS was easy.”
Overall, these three ladies stepping onto the podium were excited about their successes in the GS. They moved onto a day off where some traveled over toward New Jersey’s Winter Activities Center for the first U.S. NorAm Parallel Slalom and some are moving on to different races elsewhere.
At the exciting parallel slaloms, Mangan and Hurt will be competing for the $75,000 purse, the largest purse ever seen on the NorAm circuit.
Mangan iterated, “Yes, I will be skiing on Friday and I am very excited.”
Men’s GS race
The next day of the Whiteface series revved up with the men taking on the giant-slalom hill. The fog began to roll in for the men’s races, which set off the day with some tough conditions. Nonetheless, U.S. Ski Team athlete Bridger Gile prevailed and set the overall fastest pace for the men’s field, with a combined time of 2:11.43.
This was an incredible NorAm series for Gile. From Mont Edouard to Whiteface, he put down eight top-10 finishes out nine races. Four of those top-10 finishes were standing on top of the podium. He consecutively showed strong and aggressive racing as well as set goals each day that gave him a new focus to take on for the next.
Before the GS, Gile stated, “My main focus will be on attacking the course and coming to the bottom knowing I went as straight as I could and committed to every turn.”
By striking gold, Gile was able to prove to himself that he can take the risk of punching a straighter line and his commitment to every single turn was powerful.
Skiing in right behind Gile, earning the silver-medal, was Riley Seger of the Alpine Canada. The 20-point GS skier started Bib 2 and ended in the second-place position, just 0.29 behind Gile’s combined time. This was Seger’s second silver medal in a row up at Whiteface Mountain. During the super G, he was also able to come down with a leader board finish.
Seger explained, “I tend to be slower when I think too much, so the best thing for me is to just keep it simple. The one thing I always try to think about is skiing with intensity. … The hill is pretty mellow and it’s really important to carry speed off of the top pitch. Every day I tried to link up the turns down the pitch as best I could and carry as much speed onto the bottom section.”
Seger’s strong focus on simplicity, the way the hill ran, and full-blown intensity made for a successful few days in Whiteface.
To round out the podium, Drew Duffy of the Dartmouth Ski Team came in with a combined time that was just 0.33 behind Seger. After Mont Edouard, Duffy competed at the Sunday River university races. At those races, he also earned a third-place finish, and he was able to capture three top-10 finishes out of the four races he competed in.
“The top-third of the course was very foggy all day, which made it really tough. I felt good both runs, despite the visibility, I also was lucky and got to run bib-3 first run,” Duffy analyzed.
Duffy said competing on the university circuit assists him in the NorAm races by providing consistency of racing against a high level of athletes.
“The university races really emphasize consistency and the Eastern college circuit is really competitive this year, so the level of skiing is pretty high,” he said.
The Whiteface NorAm races concluded, but the series continues with a very exciting finish in New Jersey at the Winter Activity Center. This is where NorAm history will be made, with the first parallel slalom race in the U.S. The men and women will go head-to-head for a thrilling evening of intense racing, for a steep purse of $75,000. Tune in for a recap of all of the Friday action!