Johnson, Winter Sports Club skiers shine at Nationals

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— Austin Johnson always knew he could do it, but at the U.S. National Alpine Skiing Championships, the Steamboat Springs skier proved that he could get it done.

Johnson raced to sixth place in the men's giant slalom on the final day of the U.S. championships, which were held at Alaska's Alyeska Resort on April 3.

"I was really surprised," Johnson said. "It was by far my best finish ever."

U.S. Ski Team member Ted Ligety won the race with a combined time of 2 minutes, 22.34 seconds. Will Brandenburg was second at 2:24.66, and Cody Marshall placed third at 2:24.78. Johnson, who posted the fourth fastest second-run time, moved from a 29th-place starting position to sixth with a combined time of 2:26.96. Other top Steamboat finishers included Drew Roberts in eighth, Nathan Asoian in 16th and Cory McConnell in 39th.

U.S. Ski Team member Resi Stiegler won the women's giant slalom. Caitlin Ciccone finished second, and Julia Mancuso finished third. Top Steamboat racers included Lauren Brien in 29th and Lisa Perricone in 33rd.

"This is a huge confidence builder," Johnson said. "I've got a couple more starts this season, but I'm feeling pretty good about where I'm at."

Steamboat's Ann West opened the week with a seventh in a women's FIS downhill March 29, and she was 11th in the women's national championship race March 30. West was the third junior in the event behind the top junior, Leanne Smith, and Kirsten Cooper.

"It's impressive that our club sent that many skiers," said Chris Puckett, the Winter Sports Club's Alpine program director. "It was a chance for our skiers to gain valuable racing experience that will make them better skiers in the future."

Puckett said the racing venues were amazing and that all of the competitions were held on world-class courses. Many of those racers will head to Breckenridge this week for the final FIS Rocky Mountain Trophy Series races of the season.

Top finishes in those events could help Johnson and West improve their national rankings and positioning for the U.S. team.

"These top results are huge confidence builders for our skiers and should help put them on the map," Puckett said. "It also shows that they can be competitive against the best skiers in the country."

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