It was slalom day on Saturday in Sun Valley, Idaho, at the 2018 U.S. Alpine Championships as blue skies and near-perfect racing conditions made for fast and tight racing for both the men’s and women’s fields. After a nail-biting two runs of slalom action, independent racer Hig Roberts took the men’s title and U.S. Ski Team athlete Nina O’Brien took her second title in as many days in the women’s race.
Thanks to the efforts of the Sun Valley race crew, the surface on Saturday was immaculate with racers of both genders raving of it’s firmness and grip. The men’s race in particular was tight racing as the top 10-finishers were separated by less than two seconds. It was Robert’s second career national title after taking the giant slalom crown last year in Sugarloaf, Maine. Roberts crossed the line after his second run, face bloodied from taking a gate to the nose, and thrashed the air in excitement as the crowd cheered him on.
“I think today feels so good because I really wasn’t expecting this,” he explained. “I’ve definitely been focusing on GS more this year and slalom has been such a project for me but I think that’s what makes it so rewarding today. It’s amazing. Last year was my first national title which was also a little bit of a surprise. Being an independent has it’s positives and negatives but I’ve had great support this year and to come here and be around the guys that I’m around for most of the World Cup season, I still feel at home.”
“I also really want to dedicate this win to my late brother, Murph,” Roberts added. Murphy Roberts passed away after suffering a diabetic seizure in 2016. “He’s always with me and such a big part of this. I’m always sending it for Murph! He’d be the first person who’d be here celebrating with me.”
Joining Roberts on the podium was Mark Engel in second and defending champion AJ Ginnis in third. River Radamus was the top junior for the second day in a row in fifth overall. Radamus rode an impressive second run to jump up from 12th after the first run and claim another junior title.
“Everybody came out to play today,” Radamus said. “There were a lot of fast juniors today so I was in the hunt after first run but I was not leading. Everybody was fired up at the start and I was feeding off that energy and really wanted to throw one down second run, which felt good. I’m super psyched for AJ, Mark, and Hig to get that podium, they’ve earned that and I’m excited to be in the mix there.”
For the women, O’Brien ran with bib one and was able to overcome a slim 0.03 second deficit in her second run to overtake eventual third-place finisher and independent skier Lila Lapanja. Canadian NCAA athlete from the University of Denver Amilia Smart finished in the runner-up spot. O’Brien was also the fastest junior.
“It feels really good,” O’Brien shared. “I’ve been working on my slalom a lot this season so it’s nice to see it pay off. I was a little nervous coming into the second run but I’m glad I sent it and it worked out for me. I think chasing Lila was a good position to be in and I knew Amelia was super close behind me so I knew I was going to have to push it if I wanted to be on the podium or get the win. Slalom is actually one of the only events I like to run bib one; I would almost rather not have the report and just set my own track so I was excited to run one and it felt good.”
For complete results, click here.
Racing continues in Sun Valley with the men’s GS on Sunday, March 25.