CARRABASSETT VALLEY — Craig Marshall’s injured left hand kept him from competing at the U.S. Alpine Championships at Sugarloaf, but on Thursday morning, Marshall was at the finish line, cheering on his three Colby College teammates racing in the women’s giant slalom.

“Come on, Mardi,” Marshall shouted as Mardi Haskell neared the end of her first run. “Stick it!”

Haskell, along with Colby teammates Sierra Leavitt and Jeanne Barthold, competed in Thursday’s giant slalom championship. Haskell placed 14th with a two-run time of 2 minutes, 25.76 seconds. Barthold was 21st with a time of 2:29.47, while Leavitt finished 26th, at 2:30.97.

All three are scheduled to race in Saturday’s slalom competition. Sugarloaf is Colby’s home mountain. It’s where the Mules train throughout the college season. The experience of competing is bigger than the sum of their results.

“We want to go as fast as we can as have a lot of fun,” Barthold said. “Getting here was what we wanted to do, and show some Colby pride.”

“It’s hard to go out west (for nationals) with college and everything, so it’s awesome it’s on our own turf,” Haskell said.

Colby Alpine coach Dan Noyes watched his athletes compete, and was pleased with their effort.

“The second run was a lot better than the first for Jeanne and Sierra. The first run, Mardi skied very well, and she was really hoping to be able to attack the second run. There was a little more space in the course. It was a good situation to move up a lot, but her back stiffened up between runs. She’s been battling her back for four or five years now,” Noyes said.

Barthold, a senior, and Haskell, a sophomore, had each competed at nationals before. Thursday’s giant slalom was the first national championship appearance for Leavitt, a junior.

“I’ve been really excited because I’ve never done nationals before,” Leavitt said. “Nationals isn’t a huge thing for us, because we’re at college. It’s not like our goal, but it’s always a fun thing to get to do… It’s a lot of hype surrounding it, but for the most part, it’s just another race.”

A Casco native, Leavitt attended Carrabassett Valley Academy before enrolling at Colby, and has been skiing Sugarloaf for a long time.

“It’s definitely a challenging hill. There’s a lot of difficult spots,” Leavitt said. “I miss (CVA). Maybe I’ll go coach someday.”

The Colby skiers had more time on the Sugarloaf giant slalom course than any of the other competitors. Although the national race started higher on the mountain, making it a longer course than the one to which the Mules are accustomed, knowing the terrain was a help.

“All the spots were on point, so that was awesome for the Colby girls,” Haskell said. “I think some confidence comes with this hill, definitely.”

Added Barthold: “The snow was way better than I expected. It’s pretty much as good as it gets. The snow is incredible.”

Saturday’s slalom competition could be a good day for the Mules. At the NCAA championships at Whiteface Mountain in New York earlier this month, Haskell earned first team All-American status with a fourth-place finish in the slalom. Leavitt and Haskell each earned second team All-Ameircan by finishing ninth and 10th, respectively, in the giant slalom at the NCAA championships. Thursday’s race was the last giant slalom of Barthold’s career.

“It’s a little bittersweet for her, but she skied a lot better this (second) run. Sierra Leavitt, I believe, skied the best out of all of them, but made a mistake up on headwall,” Noyes said. “It’s exciting to come home for this event. To do it on this hill, it’s pretty special.”

• • •

While Lindsey Vonn elected not to compete at the national championships following a long World Cup season, she did make an appearance at Sugarloaf on Thursday, forerunning the giant slalom course before each competition.

“It’s nice to be back here in Sugarloaf. I’m really just here for the kids,” Vonn said. “It’s not about the competition, but more about the next generation.”

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

tlazarcz[email protected]

Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM


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