Luke Winters skis down the slalom course at Sugarloaf on Thursday afternoon. Winters placed first in the men’s combined at the U.S. Alpine speed championships. Sun Journal photo by Andree Kehn

CARRABASSETT VALLEY — Luke Winters took advantage of slips and falls by other skiers to claim the Alpine combined national title Thursday at Sugarloaf.

The slalom leg of the men’s combined was the final race of the U.S. Alpine speed championships. Several skiers suffered falls or did not finish their runs, including the leaders after the super-G portion of the combined, Ryan Cochran-Siegle (DNF) and River Radamus (fall).

Winters recorded the fastest time in the slalom (41.91 seconds) and that along with his 11th-place super-G finish earned him the national title.

Kyle Negomir skis to a third-place finish in the slalom portion of the men’s Alpine combined event at the the U.S. Alpine speed championships at Sugarloaf on Thursday. Sun Journal photo by Andree Kehn

Organizers made a change to the schedule Thursday, making Wednesday’s super-G national championship double as the first leg of the Alpine combined. A super-G race early Thursday morning was strictly a NorAm Cup race.

Winters was much more concerned about the super-G than the slalom.

“I hadn’t skied super-G all year until yesterday, and it was my first time clicking on super-G skis in over a month,” Winters said. “I had a better run than I expected, which was good, and that put me in a good position for the slalom, and I’ve been training a lot of slalom so I was comfortable with that. I did what I could and came out on top.”

Slalom is Winters’ specialty. Third-place finisher Kyle Negomir said he believes Winters has done the most slalom races on the U.S. team this year.

Winters knew that Thursday’s course was more difficult than a typical combined slalom course, and he thought he could use that to his advantage.

“The snow was actually pretty tough, especially for people who aren’t skiing slalom,” Winters said. “The set was also tougher than what a combined slalom usually is, so that definitely helped me out and didn’t help the speed skiers out.”

Jeffrey Read of Canada skis down the slalom course at Sugarloaf on Thursday afternoon, on his way to a second-place finish in the slalom portion of the men’s Alpine combined at the U.S. Alpine speed championships. Sun Journal photo by Andree Kehn

There were still 10 skiers left after Winters’ run. He watched Radamus fall and have to go backwards to make it around a pole, and Cochran-Siegle DNF’d early in his run.

“There were some really good speed skiiers,” Winters said. “Ryan had a second-and-a-half on me and was first last year in the combined and I was second. I didn’t expect much, especially from the super-G. I know I can hang with anyone in slalom, so it was a good surprise but not necessarily something out of my league.”

Ending the 2018-19 season with a win was the perfect finish for Winters.

“It feels great,” Winters said. “We’ve been skiing a lot towards the end of the season and we are ready to go to the beach, but it feels to come out on top one last time.”

Negomir finished in third overall in the combined, behind runner-up Jeffrey Read of Canada. The difficult setup Thursday also gave Negomir an advantage because he has been racing in all five ski events this season.

“It’s a pretty challenging set,” Negomir said. “The slalom courses in combined events are usually a little bit easier, like faster and more open, but this one was pretty quick and turny for a lot of it. It was pretty challenging, especially for the guys who don’t get to practice slalom a lot. I think it helped me and Luke.

“The conditions have been stellar the whole week here, so it’s pretty nice. The course is breaking down a lot so it made it easier for the guys who ski tech a lot and the more slalom guys.”

With a time of 42.81 seconds Thursday, Negomir was able to jump up from eighth to third.

“River was up there and he’s a great slalom and speed skier,” Negomir said. “That was really a bummer to see him go, but that’s how it goes sometimes. It’s cool to be up there with Luke, we’re all super-close as a team.”

Carrabasset Valley native Sam Morse entered Thursday’s race in 19th and finished in 15th overall with a slalom time of 44.64.

Jeffrey Read skis down Sugarloaf’s super-G course Thursday morning at Sugarloaf. Sun Journal photo by Andree Kehn

Jared Goldberg skis down Sugarloaf’s super-G course to a second-place finish Thursday morning. Sun Journal photo by Andree Kehn

River Radamus skis down Sugarloaf’s super-G course to a first-place finish Thursday morning. Sun Journal photo by Andree Kehn

Sam Morse, a Carrabasset Valley Academy native, skis down Sugarloaf’s super-G course to a fourth-place finish Thursday morning. Sun Journal photo by Andree Kehn

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