CARRABASSETT VALLEY — After a pressure-filled season on the World Cup tour, members of the U.S. national ski teams looked forward to a less-stressful atmosphere Saturday in the U.S. Alpine nationals at Sugarloaf Mountain.

“It’s the last fun of the year,” said Travis Ganong, in his 12th year on the U.S. men’s team.

But it’s also nice to win.

Ryan Cochran-Siegle and Laurenne Ross were the winners of the super-G championship races Saturday on Sugarloaf’s Narrow Gauge. Cochran-Siegle, a member of the U.S. B team, won the men’s race with a time of 1:19.66. Ross, in her eighth year on the national team, won the women’s race in 1:21.44.

“It means a lot to be a national champ,” said Ross, who won the U.S. super-G title in 2013. “I love to walk away and be the fastest on the hill.”

“This means a lot,” said Cochran-Siegle. “A national championship is always something to be proud of.”

It was a near-perfect day of skiing. The course was fast – too fast for some, with one female skier commenting at the finish line that “I did not like that at all.” – the weather was mild and the fans appreciative.

Cochran-Siegle was the fifth skier out in the men’s race, then had to wait out the rest of the field. Jared Goldberg finished second in 1:19.92, Ganong was third at 1:20.10 and in a surprise, Carrabassett’s own Sam Morse fourth in 1:20.22.

Morse, who skied third in the men’s Super-G, said that his race was just “all right.” Apparently it was a little better than that.

“Feels good,” said Morse, the 20-year-old Carrabassett Valley Academy graduate who learned to ski on the Narrow Gauge, after the results were final. “It’s a really nice way to finish up the season.”

Stacey Cook and Megan McJames tied for second in the women’s super-G race, in a time of 1:22.49, and Alice McKennis was next at 1:22.72. McJames had beaten Cook by nine-tenths of a second in a Nor-Am race earlier in the week.

“I would tie with Megan any day,” said Cook.

But participating in this race also means something more to the members of the U.S. ski team. It gives them a chance to revisit their youth and connect with the next generation of skiers, especially young skiers like Rylee McCormack, Emma Kearing and Sam Conzelman – all CVA students.

Conzelman, a 17-year-old junior at CVA, finished 19th of 34 in the women’s race. Thirteen women did not finish.

“Part of the reason why we’re here is to inspire them and to hang out with them,” said Ross. “I remember being one of the younger girls. I was 15 or 16 going into my first nationals, and I remember going and racing against Julia (Mancuso) and seeing Ted (Ligety) there and just being totally shocked at their skills and abilities, and being inspired by them.

“It’s nice to be here and we have a lot of fun.”

Cook, who has competed in three Winter Olympics for the U.S., added that even at the end of the season she gives her best in this race.

“You have a long season on the World Cup, you go to the world championships and the Olympics a few times, and it’s really easy to forget about this event,” she said. “It’s the lowest level event we have on the year. For most people it’s the highest level event. But the title still means something. And I take that to heart.

“And I remember the first time I went to nationals and how meaningful it was to race against the best and measure up, and so I want those girls in the back to be able to measure up to my best. I’m not going to give anything away. I want them to see where they need to get to. And that’s probably the most powerful tool at that age, to race against people who are faster.”

Conzelman, who was the third skier down the mountain, certainly liked having the U.S. team members around.

“This is a crazy accomplishment for me,” she said. “It wasn’t even on my goals to make it this year. I definitely wasn’t expecting it at all. So I’m definitely pumped.”

She was pleased with her run, noting of course that she could have done better.

“There’s definitely room for improvement,” she said. “But it was great to get on the same track as the U.S. teammers.”

Cochran-Siegle, who finished second twice and fourth another time in the nationals, said Sugarloaf provided a “cool atmosphere” and that he enjoyed spending time with the younger skiers.

Ganong added that it didn’t matter to him where he finished. “This is more about coming and supporting the next generation, and inspiring the kids,” he said. “That’s why we’re here … Last night we had an autograph signing and there probably were 150-200 kids there. It was super fun to see how excited they were to actually meet us. That’s what nationals are about.”

The Alpine championships continue for many skiers through Tuesday, with the slalom (on Sunday) and giant slalom (Monday and Tuesday). Not for Ganong, who skied his last race of the season Saturday.

Now he can relax, if only briefly. The 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, are just 11 months away.

“Next season started five minutes ago, after I crossed the finish line,” said Ganong. “Now I get to reset mentally and analyze my season from this year, and find different ways to make myself better next year.”

Mike Lowe can be contacted at 791-6422 or:

[email protected]

Twitter: MikeLowePPH