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Collins, Knight Win Ski Titles

March 25, 1996

CARRABASSETT VALLEY, Maine (AP) _ Jennifer Collins, who this month won the NCAA giant slalom title, lost a ski pole on her first run but sizzled through the second run Monday to capture the national giant slalom crown.

In the men’s slalom, Chip Knight of New Canaan, Conn., won both runs to capture his first national ski championship.

``I’ve come to nationals for a few years, so it’s a big relief to get it,″ he said.

Knight’s two-run time was 1 minute, 38.21 seconds with Casey Pucket of Crested Butte, Colo., second (1:40.65). Bode Miller of Franconia, N.H., an 18-year-old from nearby Carrabassett Valley Academy, was the surprise bronze medalist in 1:41.05 on the final day of the Chevy Truck U.S. Alpine Championships.

Collins, a Dartmouth freshman from Allegany, N.Y., was fourth after the first run at Sugarloaf/USA resort. However, she posted the fastest second run by nearly 1.5 seconds. When Canadians Marie Joelle Clement and Gillian McFetridge, who were first and third in the morning, skied off course, Collins was the U.S. champion in bright sunshine and 34-degree temperatures.

Her winning time was 2 minutes, 8.87 seconds, with Kirsten Clark of Raymond, Maine, second in the first run, silver medalist in 2:10.07. Jonna Mendes of Zephyr Cove, Nev., was third with a time of 2:10.47.

``When I’ve had problems this year, I’ve been able to dig down and charge on the second run,″ said Collins, who dropped her pole as she came out of the start in the morning.

She won 11 of 12 college races this winter, missing only when she fell in a slalom during the St. Lawrence University carnival. At the NCAAs in Bozeman, Mont., she was eighth after the first run of GS but roared through the second run to win the title.

``You have to make the best of any situation,″ she said. ``I’ve had a little bit of practice `with problems’ and I definitely was happy I could let it go today.″

Clark, who grew up racing for Carrabassett Valley Academy and at Sugarloaf, won the women’ combined title, based on results of all four individual races.

Chris Puckett of Crewsted Butte, Colo., another Dartmouth student, won the men’s combined title with his brother Casey, the 1995 combined champ, runner-up.

``To me, the overall at U.S. nationals is what I pride myself on. That’s what I want to win,″ said Chris Puckett, a 1992 Olympian and the overall North American Championship Series leader and GS champion.

``I want to win an individual event as well but I feel the skier who can make all four courses and do ’em well is really doing something. Last year it was my brother and it’s been a Puckett for three of the last four years, and we’re really proud of that.″

First prize money in each race and in the combined tally was $4,000 with $1,750 for second. To preserve their college eligibility, Collins and Clark did not accept the money.

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