Lapanja wins combined national title as O’Brien does not finish on warm course
Tahoe’s Lila Lapanja was able to navigate the quickly disappearing snow — which is hardly ideal for racing — on Wednesday to claim her first national title, winning the two-day combined at the U.S. Alpine Championships at Aspen Highlands.
Usually a one-day affair featuring both a super-G and a slalom run, the warm weather led organizers to split the two runs over two days, with the super-G portion having been held on Tuesday. Wednesday’s slalom time was then added to the super-G results to determine the combined champion.
“I was super excited about the super-G because I wasn’t expecting that and I wanted to be within striking distance for slalom, and so to come down with that result (Tuesday) was really exciting for me,” Lapanja said. “This was my best super-G result at U.S. nationals as well. Then, I just tried to do what I know how to do in slalom, and keep it really simple.”
The 26-year-old Lapanja spent six years on the U.S. ski team but has operated as an independent athlete in recent years. She’s among a large group of realistic hopefuls to make the U.S. Olympic team ahead of the 2022 Winter Games in China.
Lapanja had previously finished on the podium seven times at U.S. nationals, but this was her first win.
She had the second-fastest slalom run on Wednesday (38.84 seconds), only 0.04 seconds back of Aspen’s own Galena Wardle, a former national team member. Lapanja had been fifth-best in super-G on Tuesday and finished with a combined two-run time of 1 minute, 56.27 seconds to win the combined national title by a mere 0.01 over former University of Denver skier Storm Klomhaus.
Finishing third in the combined was Canada’s Kiara Alexander, 0.57 back of Lapanja, while Wardle came in sixth overall.
“It’s always fun to race here at Highlands. I’ve had a couple of successful days here at Highlands, so there’s good energy on this hill for me,” Lapanja said. “It’s really strange racing U.S. nationals so late in the season. Usually, at this point, we’re wrapping up, and to maintain the mental focus needed to go this long into the season after spending five months in Europe required some patience on my part, and some rest.”
Current national B team member Nina O’Brien, who won Tuesday’s super-G national title, did not finish her slalom run after straddling a gate. The race surface was reportedly bumpy, challenging and unresponsive, according to a U.S. ski team news release, a byproduct of the warm weather.
AJ Hurt, a national C team skier from California, also did not finish on Wednesday after winning the FIS super-G on Tuesday. Klomhaus won the FIS combined title on Wednesday, finishing 0.27 ahead of Canada’s Britt Richardson.
The U.S. Alpine Championships are scheduled to wrap up with Thursday’s women’s giant slalom and Friday’s women’s slalom national title races.
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