SODA SPRINGS, Calif. -- Bode Miller was a little more cautious on the second run of a slalom this time, and it gave him a national championship.
Miller capped his breakthrough season by winning the men's slalom at the U.S. Alpine Championships in a snowstorm Sunday. He won by a remarkable 2.76 seconds over Erik Schlopy in a race usually decided by hundredths of seconds. Casey Puckett was third.
Sarah Schleper won the women's national slalom title for the second straight year. Caroline Lalive was second and Julia Mancuso was third. Sarah Fischer of Juneau did not finish her first run.
In Friday's Super G races, Caroline Lalive and Marco Sullivan won national titles on their home slopes in Squaw Valley, Calif. Lalive won the women's race in 58.83 seconds, with Fischer finishing 24th in 1:03.43. Sullivan won the men's race in 59.24 seconds.
Lalive and Erik Schlopy won a lower-level FIS Super G race on Wednesday, which was a preview of the national championships. Lalive won the women's race in 1:01.21 and Fischer finished 22nd in 1:07.00. Schlopy won the men's race in 1:00.73.
Miller, who won silver medals in the giant slalom and the combined event at the Salt Lake City Olympics, said the deteriorating conditions at the Sugar Bowl ski area worked to his advantage Sunday.
"I'm better through the ruts than almost anyone in the world right now," he said. "You couldn't see well. It was challenging because it got all chunked up, and one thing I'm good at is dealing with tough course conditions."
Unlike the Olympics, where Miller fell on the second run of the slalom when a third medal was well within his grasp, he made sure to finish Sunday.
"I didn't take unnecessary risks. I wanted to finish," he said, "but I didn't back off."
The national championships, which run through Tuesday, mark the end of the season for Miller and other American skiers. Sunday's title capped a remarkable season for Miller, who had been considered an inconsistent performer whose all-or-nothing style prevented him from becoming a winner.
But he won four World Cup races this season -- three slaloms and one giant slalom -- and was the first U.S. man to make a serious run at the World Cup overall title since the early 1980s.
And at the Olympics he became the first American man with a medal in the giant slalom and in the combined event.
Now he's the veteran of a U.S. team that is regrouping after a tough Olympics -- no woman got an Alpine medal, and Miller was the only male medalist -- and the retirement of Picabo Street.
At 24, he's the oldest person to have won a title so far at the national championships. Marco Sullivan, 21, and Lalive, 22, won super giant slalom titles on Friday. Schleper turned 23 last month.
Schleper said her second straight national slalom title shows she's ready to start winning international races.
"I think I'm not considered an up-and-comer any more. Next year, I'll be considered a veteran," she said. "I can't wait to start winning on the World Cup."
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