Story by John LeCant
VAIL — Megan McGrew ascended one step higher on the podium Thursday after stringing together two impressive runs to win the giant slalom (GS) at the 2012 J3 Rocky/Central Junior Championships on Golden Peak.

Coming off a second-place finish at Wednesday’s super-G, Ski and Snowboard Club Vail’s (SSCV) McGrew drew the 11th bib for Thursday’s GS and led the field for most of the competition. On Wednesday, it was Katy Harris of Team Breck defeating McGrew by more than a second for a clear victory. On Thursday, McGrew turned the tables on Harris, beating her by more than a second in the first run with a time of 49.08 seconds, the only competitor in the field to go sub-50 on the first run. Harris tailed in second with a time of 50.5 and actually put down the fastest time of the day in 45.95 with her second run, but the difference wasn’t enough as McGrew laid down a solid run herself in 46.89, taking home the gold. Harris would have to settle for silver.

“I do have some nerves,” McGrew said after her first run. “I’m really just anxious to get down the course and have a good run.”

But McGrew said above all else, having fun was her main concern on the day.

And that was consistent with her coach’s wishes.

SSCV J3 women’s coach Bruce Hamlin gives his athletes a lot of good advice going into races. He details new tactics for them to take as the course changes between runs and discusses the consistency of the snow as the day goes on. He tells them to “attack, attack, attack,” going into the race, but the last thing he says to his athletes before they explode out of the starting gate is “It’s race day. And what do we do on race day? Have fun!”

Hamlin said with the way the conditions were on Thursday, you couldn’t ask for a better day to enjoy yourself while doing some ski racing.

“This is classic Vail weather right here,” he said with a look to the cloudless abyss above him. “Warm, sunny and blue skies.”

The top 10 athletes are all recognized at the ceremonies following the races, and on Thursday, six of those top 10 were from Hamlin’s squad, including places 4 through 7. Hamlin said part of their advantage was the home surroundings, and part of it was simply the fact that SSCV has some great skiers on their team.

“I’m not surprised, just incredibly happy,” Hamlin said following the race. “We’ve got a really deep squad and they’ve grown into some great skiers.”

Besides McGrew, other SSCV participants included Rachael Desrochers in fourth place, Abigail Murer, fifth; Sasha Horn, sixth; Camilla Trapness, seventh; Anna Martin, ninth; Whitney Merriman, 15th; Zoe Spanos, 18th; Katelin Hennum, 25th; Lauren Viola, 32nd and Ruby Black in 56th. SSCV racers Haily Norvell, Skylar Chaney, and Heidi Livran did not finish the first run.

The women get the day off today as the J3 men take to the course for their turn at the GS, scheduled for 10:30 a.m. (Note to potential spectators: Thursday’s women’s run started a little earlier than scheduled.) The 2012 J3 Rocky/Central Junior Olympics conclude on Saturday with a slalom at the Golden Peak competition center, slated to begin at 9:45 a.m.