WHITEFISH, Mont. -- Slalom specialists Casey Puckett and Erik Schlopy showed they also can win a speed race, sharing victory in the men's super-G Saturday at the U.S. Alpine nationals.
Puckett and Schlopy each covered the long, twisting course in 1 minute, 43 seconds flat. Daron Rahlves, the world super-G champion, struggled on his run and placed third, narrowly behind at 1:43.01.
The closest race in U.S. Alpine history had a strange twist. Jakub Fiala appeared to win after he was granted a provisional rerun and finished in 1:42.82, but a race jury later disqualified him for missing a gate. Two Alaskans competed in Saturday's super-G, with Elliott Daniels of Anchroage finishing 42nd and Andre Horton of Anchorage not finishing.
In Friday's action, Kirsten Clark won the women's downhill race over Picabo Street and Jonna Mendes, while Rahlves claimed the men's downhill race over Puckett and Chad Fleischer. Three Alaska women competed in Friday's downhill, with Suki Horton of Anchorage 14th, Sarah Fischer of Juneau tied for 18th and Morgan Gose of Anchorage 29th. In the men's downhill, Andre Horton was ninth overall and Daniels 24th.
The women's super-G race is today, as the U.S. Alpine nationals continue at Big Mountain Resort. The men's giant slalom is Monday, the women's GS is Tuesday, and the men's and women's slalom races are Wednesday.
Puckett and Schlopy shared more than first place in Saturday's super-G race. Puckett loaned an extra set of super-G skis to Schlopy, who wasn't even sure he would race the event before going to bed Friday night.
"I woke up and it was sunny," Schlopy said. "I said, 'I think I'll ski today."'
The only problem was that Schlopy, coming off a strong World Cup season in slalom and giant slalom, only brought his slalom skis to Montana. Puckett, his buddy and a former world junior slalom champion, made the loan.
"You can see it right here," Schlopy said, pointing to the initials "PCP" on the lettering of the skis.
Puckett won four slalom races last week on the North American circuit, but he's probably the U.S. Ski Team's most versatile racer. He was fourth in the World Cup combined results in Kitzbuehel, Austria, this season.
The super-G course at Big Mountain Resort was heavy with turns, and that benefitted a strong technical racer like Puckett or Schlopy.
"There were a few times where I felt myself slipping, so I made a conscious effort to get back into a rhythm," Puckett said. "There were so many turns, you had to have a rhythm."
He crossed the finish line just after Rahlves, and Puckett's time was posted moments later showing a difference of one-hundreth of a second. The crowd cheered and the two racers congratulated each other.
"Since I just beat the world champion, I'm going to say this is my best race of the season," Puckett said.
Schlopy's second-place finish in a World Cup giant slalom at Bormio, Italy, in December was the best showing by an American man in the event in 18 years. He didn't feel it was a radical change to race the super-G.
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