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Battlin’ Bears bite the competition

March 9, 2018
By LOU REUTER - Senior Sports Writer ( , Lake Placid News

WILMINGTON - Lisa Hiltula had been on a tear earlier this winter competing out west as a member of the Rocky Mountain College ski team. The Battlin' Bears freshman appears to be just as good skiing in the east.

On Thursday, Hiltula topped a huge field to win the women's slalom at the United States Collegiate Ski and Snowboard Association championships being held at Whiteface Mountain. The win gave Hiltula her second trip to the podium in as many races this week after she grabbed a third-place finish in the championships giant slalom on Tuesday.

Hiltula, a 22-year-old from Sweden, put down the fastest time in the first run, and followed with the next quickest trip down Whiteface's Drapers' Drop course to win with a combined time of 1 minute, 43.38 seconds. Hiltula's teammate, Emeline Lafarge, finished second, which helped the Battlin' Bears also claim the women's slalom team title.

Article Photos

Emeline Lafarge of Rocky Mountain College skis her second run on the way to a runner-up finish in Thursday’s USCSA national championship women’s slalom race.
(News photo — Lou Reuter)

"It's so cool being here," Hiltula said. "It feels great to win this, and we won as a team, which is even better, so I'm super duper mega happy now."

Hiltula blazed to a finish time of 53.01 seconds to take more than a one second advantage on her first run, and then turned in a result of :50.29 on her second trip down the course to claim the win. Lafarge stood in second after the opening heat, and then clinched the silver with a blistering time of 49.87, which was the only result that cracked the 50-second barrier during the women's second run.

"I was in the lead, so I was pretty nervous between the runs," Hiltula said. "When I went to lunch I could barely eat. I had such good teammates at the start. They were super supportive. They were saying 'You got this. You got this.' I had a plan for how I was supposed to ski technique-wise, so I tried to do that and it was enough so I'm super happy."

Hiltula said this week's championships are the second biggest races she's ever competed in, topped only by her trip a year ago to the Winter Universiade games in Almaty, Kazakhstan, an event that she described as the Olympics for college athletes from across the world.

"I'm kind of old for a freshman, but I've been skiing at home in Sweden for awhile before I went to school," Hiltula said. "It's cool to be around here and see all the skiers. I guess I came to win, but it's so hard to set a high goal for slalom because anything can happen. In the back of my head, my goal was to win."

The Battlin' Bears won the team competition by more than seven seconds. Castleton University of Vermont finished runner-up in the team event.

Gabby Gencheff of St. Olaf College rounded out the women's slalom podium, placing third in 1:45.97.

With Thursday's win, Hiltula also wrapped up the women's overall alpine title at the USCSA championships, which have now held at Whiteface Mountain for the third time. The event was held at Mount Bachelor in Oregon last winter and were at Lake Placid the season before.

Saranac Lake High School graduate Macy Fischer is a local skier participating in the championships, competing for Syracuse University as a sophomore. On Thursday, Fischer finished 42nd in a field that started with more than 90 skiers from across the nation. Fischer turned in runs of 1:05.99 and 58.11 for a 1:44.31 combined time. Fischer fared even better on Tuesday, placing 27th in the giant slalom.

"I was at nationals last year in Oregon, but this year is really cool because I'm back on my home mountain," Fischer said. "This was a great opportunity coming into this week. We had to work really hard to get here against some really good teams like Cornell and Hobart. We made it here hoping for the best. It was a fun team week

"It's kind of funny because we are a club team going up against all these good schools," Fischer added. "The races went really well. I ended up placing in the top 30 in the GS, which I was really happy with because there are so many good girls here. Today was tough because on the first run, the course was sheer ice. It was interesting."

The final alpine event in the USCSA championships will be held on Saturday when teams battle it out in the men's a women's dual slalom race on the same Thruway/Draper's Drop trail. Today's alpine action includes the men's slalom race.

Other USCSA events Thursday included men's and women's snowboard slalom and men's and women's freeski slopestyle.



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