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Snowboard national champs crowned

SUNDAY RIVER, Maine — Snowboarders powered up again Saturday after heavy snowfall left the U.S. Snowboard Championships in the dark for a day.

Some 28 inches of wet snow knocked out electricity at Sunday River resort all day Friday, and there was some concern it wouldn't be restored in time to resume the four-day event which ends today.

But when the snow stopped piling up and the lights came on, men's and women's national champions were crowned in halfpipe and parallel giant slalom.

Both events will be part of the 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake City, and Saturday's winners are top contenders for the Olympic team.

Winter X Games champ Danny Kass found himself in the podium again, winning the raucous evening halfpipe competition under floodlights that never flickered once.

"The riding was fun. The pipe was good. The crowd was loud," he said.

And Kass was large. His high-flying routine included two 720-degree spins and an inverted 920 with an Indy grab.

The 18-year-old New Jersey native managed to generated lots of speed and power in a halfpipe slowed by mushy snow. Kass had some Good Riddance, "you're average death metal" music blasting in his ears. "It makes me go faster," he said.

Andy Finch and Tommy Czeschin finished second and third, respectively.

Another teenager, 17-year-old Kelly Clark, put together a monster second run to edge U.S. teammate Gretchen Bleiler for the women's title.

"My first run was kind of sketchy . . . I did some big airs, but I bottomed dropped them all. They weren't very clean," she said. "And then my second run I just picked it up and I was a lot more consistent. My 5 (540-degree spin) was good. I just went really big and had fun."

The alpine riders' fun came after a day of waiting around for the weather to clear.

Chris Klug received a couple of unexpected gifts, and Rosey Fletcher had to fend off the "chipmunks" en route to parallel giant slalom wins.

Canadian David Vaughn appeared to have Klug beat in a quarterfinal run after the American crashed about halfway down the bumpy course. But Vaughn met a similar fate a few gates later and helplessly watched Klug shoot past him.

"That just goes to show in parallel (that you) never give up," Klug said. "I think I owe him a little of my prize money."

In the finals, Canadian Jasey Jay Anderson misread the scoreboard after the first heat against Klug. Thinking he had a 0.8 second lead rather than a 0.08 second advantage, Anderson coasted on the second run. Klug nipped him at the finish line, leaving Anderson stunned.

"I feel like such an idiot now. I could have turned it on at any time. It's so disappointing. I had this all wrapped up," said Anderson, who unlike most riders, had few problems on the rough-and-tumble course.

Klug made no such error in judgment. And getting the faster red course on the second run, "I knew I had him," he said.

Saturday was the first time Anderson and Klug, among the premier parallel giant slalom riders in world, have dueled head-to-head this season.

Meantime, 1998 Olympian Fletcher fended off a determined bunch of up-and-coming young rippers. The field was littered with entrants from snowboarding's junior (19 and under) division.

"I just tried to stay fully focused throughout the whole day. It's really hard with the juniors, but we like to call them chipmunks, because they definitely come here with nothing to lose. And there's nothing more dangerous than somebody with nothing to lose," she said.

Second-place finisher Michelle Gorgone, 17, admitted to being somewhat in awe of Fletcher and other U.S. veterans.

"I was just trying to go all out because I know that they're good. It takes a lot to beat them," said Gorgone, who skidded off course on her first run. "I think I just kind of psyched myself out because it was Rosey, and she wins everything."