April 3, 2009
On Wednesday afternoon, Megan McJames was relaxing at home.
The rest was well deserved as the 21-year-old Park City native had one of her most prolific competitions ever. At the Nature Valley U.S. Alpine Championships in Alyeska, Alaska, this week, McJames started winning on Sunday taking fourth in the slalom. Then on Monday, she made a bit of personal history with a second-place finish in the giant slalom, right behind good friend Julia Mancuso.
This is the first time McJames has had a podium finish at Alpine nationals, which is quite an accomplishment. But the real accomplishment was just lasting through the difficult conditions on the race hill. The skiers spent most of the week trying not to inhale the ash in the air from the recently-erupted Mount Redoubt nearby. And Monday’s race came on the heels of an overnight snowstorm that continued throughout the event.
McJames said that the conditions affected her approach to the race. Once she knew what she was up against, she decided to make her run fast and furious.
"What I decided to do was be aggressive and put it down as fast as I could," she said.
The plan worked. She was sitting in third place after a near-perfect first run and then turned in the fastest second run of the day to put her into first temporarily with a time of two minutes and 12.77 seconds.
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"When I got down, I felt it was a good run," she said.
But she still had to wait for Mancuso, who ended up edging her out with a total time of 2:12.62.
"Julia said congrats. We were both happy to be on the podium after a long week and season of racing," McJames said.
This was McJames’ second trip to the 49th state, having been there for the national championships two years ago. She said that with the volcano eruption and constant snow, this was definitely one of her more eventful races ever, but praised the conditions at the resort.
"It was pretty crazy," she said. "It’s a really good course. I’d love to give props for the daily prep work."
The volcano did hamper the travel plans of many would-be U.S. fans, but McJames said that the people who were there gave more than their share of support. Then, when McJames returned home, her family and friends had their own cheering celebration.
Nationals more or less ended the season for McJames. She plans on competing in a spring FIS race in Colorado next week, but other than that, she is already focusing her sights on the off-season. Ending on such a high note has given McJames plenty to look forward to. She also set a personal-best 14th place finish in the giant slalom at the World Cup in Soelden, Austria earlier in the season. With those kinds of results, she will not only have a lot FIS points heading into next season to give her a better starting position for World Cup events, but it should also boost her confidence for a certain one-every-four-year, international sporting event looming in the near future.