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Park City • Faye Gulini knows that in the world of snowboardcross, anything can happen when riders bunch together.
So the Salt Lake resident jumped into the lead right from the start, left her three rivals to jostle for runner-up position and cruised Saturday to the women's title in the U.S. Snowboarding and Freeskiing Grand Prix at Canyons Resort.
"The first heat I had a problem on top," said Gulini, who will turn 21 on March 24. But with a few words of advice from her coach, she was "able to get off clean" and successfully defended her status as reigning national champion.
"I felt a lot more pressure this time around. I was nervous up top and that's not good. Jittery legs don't move," she said. "I didn't feel entitled, so this [win] was just as fun and I'm super-excited."
Saturday's performance continued a strong showing this season for Gulini, who finished eighth two weeks ago in a World Cup competition in Sochi, Russia, site of the 2014 Winter Olympics.
In the men's competition, Trevor Jacob became the national champion after he barely avoided a collision early in the race then caught Hagen Kearney on the final jump to snatch a narrow victory.
"Man, I rode the fence. It was cool," said the 19-year-old from Malibu, Calif., of barely evading the crash. "I'm super stoked about how it went."
Chelone Miller, younger brother of Alpine ski racer Bode Miller, was fourth.
This is Jacob's first year on the snowboardcross circuit, which he joined after growing up as a halfpipe specialist. He doesn't think his halfpipe background helped him master snowboardcross skills, other than to instill an attitude of "just go for it and if it works, it works. I came out here to get destroyed or to win it."
Jacob entered Saturday's competition as the No. 4 seed. But in the preliminary heats, the top three seeds defending champion Nate Holland, Alex Deibold and two-time Olympic gold medalist Seth Wescott were taken out.
To 2006 Olympic silver medalist Lindsey Jacobellis, a race commentator while recovering from a knee injury, "that's why it's such an exciting sport. You can't take anything for granted."
She knows. Seven years ago at the Turin Olympics, Jacobellis was comfortably on her way to a gold medal when she fell on the final jump and had to settle for second.
R Saturday at Canyons Resort in Park City
1. Faye Gulini, USA
2. Michelle Brodeur,Canada
3. Simona Meiler,Switzerland
4. Brooke Shaw, USA
1. Trevor Jacob, USA
2. Hagen Kearney, USA
3. Alex Tuttle, USA
4. Chelone Miller, USA