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Mikaela Shiffrin, Colby Granstrom win

4/4/2011 - Olympic Sports

WINTER PARK, Colo. -- So good on the slopes at such a young age, Mikaela Shiffrin naturally draws comparisons to Lindsey Vonn.

Rather than run from such speculation, the 16-year-old almost welcomes such talk and finds the association quite flattering, really.

"It is a big compliment to me," Shiffrin said. "She has been one of my idols since I've been growing up."

Although Shiffrin has a long, long way to go to catch up to her idol, she's on the right track, winning her first title at the U.S. championships with a smooth performance in sloppy conditions Sunday in the slalom.

Shiffrin flew down the mushy course in a combined time of 1 minute, 42.14 seconds, holding off Sarah Schleper by 0.52 seconds. Resi Stiegler finished third.

"I was sure hoping for this," said Shiffrin, who attends Burke Mountain Academy in Vermont. "A lot came through today."

To celebrate, Shiffrin was off to hit the books. She's got a ton of Algebra II homework to catch up on, not to mention a little history.

These days, she's making quite a bit of history, too.

Right before her 16th birthday in March, Shiffrin took part in two World Cup races in Spindleruv Mlyn, Czech Republic, becoming one of the youngest Americans to step into a big-league starting gate.

She also won a bronze medal in the slalom at the junior world championships, even with a bad virus.

"This is the best end to a season ever," Shiffrin said.

Shiffrin wasn't the only youngster coming up big on a slushy course.

Up-and-comer Colby Granstrom broke up Tommy Ford's monopoly at nationals, taking the men's title. The 20-year-old Granstrom, of Lake Stevens, Wash., had a two-run time of 1:42.67, beating Ford by 1.33 seconds. University of Denver standout Seppi Stiegler, who recently won an NCAA giant slalom crown, wound up third, just like his older sister.

Granstrom was in fourth after the first run, but turned in a fast final trip in snowy conditions to take the title.

"I wanted to throw down the best run I could," Granstrom said. "It was enough. ... This was always a dream of mine. Now that it's finally happened, it feels great."

On an afternoon when Ford lost, he still won.

That's simply how nationals have gone for him of late.

Moments after coming up just short in the slalom, the racer from Bend, Ore., found out that he had captured the crown in the combined, which meshed the times from the super-G that Ford won Saturday with those of the slalom.

He's now won six national titles in the last two years.

"Unbelievable," Ford said of his weekend. "To be consistent through all this [soft] snow, I'm happy with my skiing. Colby put it in a groove today and let it go. That was sweet."

Julia Mancuso couldn't add to her career mark of 13 U.S. titles, skiing off the course in whiteout conditions during the first run of the women's race.

"Just really tough. Went out. Oh well," said Mancuso, who plans to head back to Squaw Valley, Calif., to unwind and sneak in a little more skiing before heading off to Hawaii to surf. "Still a really good week."

Mancuso won the super-G and giant slalom titles earlier this week.

Schleper had a solid weekend, too, finishing runner-up in the giant slalom along with the slalom. Later, the 32-year-old from Vail, Colo., found out she had wrapped up the combined title, just edging Laurenne Ross.

For as bummed as Schleper was about losing Sunday, she was that excited for Shiffrin, a skier Schleper has taken under her wing.

"That was a fight, I'm stoked for Mikaela," said Schleper, who has a 3-year-old son, Lasse, and husband that follow along with her on the World Cup circuit. "She has a good solid head on her shoulders to come down and take the win."

By making it safely through the course, Resi Stiegler accomplished something she hasn't in quite a while -- staying healthy through an entire season. She's had a string of injuries the last three seasons, including broken legs and arms, torn knee ligaments and a fractured tibial plateau.

"I made it, the whole year, my first season," she said, laughing. "I'm really happy about that."

The fact Stiegler shared the stage and spotlight with her brother meant a lot to her.

"So exciting," said Stiegler, who's from Jackson Hole, Wyo. "Every day this year that we've raced together, we've gotten the exact same place. I knew that when he got third there was no way that I could get worse than that."