GIRDWOOD, Alaska Daron Rahlves is plenty familiar with the skier that finished just ahead of him in the World Cup standings. After all, they're teammates.
Bode Miller got the most attention as the top U.S. skier on the World Cup circuit, but Rahlves was only 30 points behind in the final standings even if it was hardly noticed.
''I'm stoked for him, but I want the two of us to be fighting it out for the overall title next year,'' Rahlves said.
Rahlves took fifth in the overall World Cup points race this season with 1104 points, just behind No. 4 Miller. Both will compete this week at the U.S. Alpine Championships, which open Friday with the downhill one of Rahlves' specialties.
And as Miller competes and scores in all five categories slalom, giant slalom, super G, downhill and the combined Rahlves has been doing it primarily in just the downhill and super G. He won two World Cup golds in both speed disciplines this season, including the downhill last week at the World Cup finals in Sestriere, Italy.
Sestriere will be the Alpine site in the 2006 Winter Olympics, and Rahlves hopes to have at least himself and Miller among the contenders.
''It's nice to go into the start gate or into a race where everybody's kind of watching you too. They know they have to wait for us to come down,'' Rahlves said. ''We want to put that fear into everybody.''
Alyeska Resort is the host for the national championships for the first time since 1981. It was supposed to be the site last year, but was moved across the continent to Lake Placid, N.Y., because of warm weather here that caused poor racing conditions.
Getting to the resort about 40 miles southeast of Anchorage was a bit of an adventure for Rahlves, who won a prelude race to the nationals Thursday afternoon. He was still trying to adjust after spending a day and a half getting from Italy. Miller was still en route Thursday afternoon but was expected to compete.
Miller was in contention to become the first American to win an overall title since 1983 but couldn't catch Austria's Hermann Maier. Still, Miller finished as the top skier in the combined and GS, an event Rahlves has been trying to improve on and will need to in order to catch Miller.
''If I pull myself together in GS, I could really be a factor for next year. That's my goal. I've never really thought about the overall too much, I've always thought about the downhill title,'' Rahlves said. ''That is No. 1, but I have a good chance I think of nailing the overall and that's a big goal now. In my career, I finally see it's more reality than just a dream.''
Rahlves, who turns 31 in June, hasn't competed in the last two national championships because of injuries. He is favored Friday afternoon to win the downhill, where he is the all-time U.S. leader.
The women will open the championships with the downhill late Friday morning, although some of the top members of the U.S. team will not be competing. Kristin Koznick, Sarah Schleper and Kirsten Clark, who was the top U.S. finisher in the women's overall standings at No. 13 despite being out since the end of January, will not ski because of injuries.
The field does include Julia Macuson, who won national titles last year in the downhill, super G and GS, and Jonna Mendes, the winner of Thursday's prelude downhill.
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