STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Though University of Colorado senior Henrik Gunnarsson lost the men's slalom title by just two-hundredths of a second on Friday night, his second-place finish wasn't enough to move the Buffs out of fourth place in the NCAA National Championship team standings.
The University of Denver moved into first place with 405.5 points, followed by Montana State University with 390 points and the University of Utah with 362 points.
After three days of racing, CU had 340.5 points. The Buffs trail the championship leader DU by 65.5 points heading in the final day of competition at the four-day NCAA championship, which CU is hosting in Steamboat Springs this week.
The men's slalom title slipped through Gunnarsson's fingers, but he was upbeat about his podium spot after a disappointing performance in the giant slalom races earlier this week. Gunnarsson did not finish his second giant slalom run, which meant he wasn't able to earn points for the Buffs.
He finished with a two-run slalom time of 1 minute, 24.68 seconds and was bested by the University of Denver's Erik Read.
"I feel pretty good, it was two-hundredths I lost with, which is a bit tough, but I'm going to forget it real soon and be really happy with my second place," Gunnarsson said.
CU freshman Max Luukko finished fifth with a combined time of 1:25.41, followed by Ola Johansen at No. 33 with a time of 1:40.09.
Johansen straddled a gate in his first run and had to hike back up above it and finish the run, which cost him precious time.
"Too little yet," coach Richard Rokos said of the team's overall slalom performance. "We have a little ways to go but I think we closed the gap a little. The guys had a good race. Ola didn't unfortunately, but I think he's still one of the fastest guys in this league and didn't capitalize on it, but such is life and skiing."
The men's unfortunate performance in the giant slalom may have doomed the Buffs from day one, which was frustrating for Luukko, who skied in his first national championship this year.
"Us boys' giant slalom went so bad so we would've had to do like so amazing now (in the slalom," he said. "If the Nordies don't win everything then I think the championship may be gone for us. But tough luck."
Rokos thinks the Nordic team has a shot at bringing in big points for the Buffs, a team that three years ago made up 54 points on the final day of competition — also a Nordic day — to win the 2013 national title.
"They have the capacity, no question," Rokos said. "Tomorrow will be the day to watch because the difference in the point spread is not so much between four schools."
Freshman Nora Christensen surprised everyone, including herself, with a fifth-place finish in Friday's slalom.
Christensen, who finished with a two-run time of 1:31.24, didn't know she would be skiing in her first national championship until last weekend, when senior Jessica Honkonen injured her knee during a training run on Howelsen Hill.
"I was a little bit nervous today but I think I ski better when I'm a little bit nervous because then I really just get my (expletive) together and just go for it," she said. "I didn't put that much pressure on myself but I just wanted to have fun and try to ski as good as I could."
CU's next best slalom skier was freshman Tonje Trulsrud at No. 15 with a time of 1:32.07, followed by senior Thea Grosvold at No. 16 with a combined time of 1:32.48.
The University of Utah's Julie Mohagen won the women's slalom national title with a time of 1:29.63.
The skiers — and fans — got a treat Friday, as the slalom races were held after dark and under the lights at Howelsen Hill. Several hundred spectators turned out, cowbells in hand, to cheer on the snow and tailgate in the parking lot.
"The first run I could actually hear all the cheering down here but the second run I didn't hear anything," Christensen said. "It's so cool to ski under the lights and have a night race and so cool that people are out here cheering for us."
NCAA Skiing Championships
At Steamboat Springs
(Through six events)Team scores
1. Denver 405½; 2. Montana State 390; 3. Utah 362; 4. Colorado 340½; 5. Dartmouth 257; 6. Vermont 250; 7. New Mexico 207½; 8. Alaska-Anchorage 174½; 9. Northern Michigan 122; 10. New Hampshire 118; 11. Middlebury 103; 12. Colby 70; 13. Williams 52; 14. St. Michael's 50; 15. Alaska-Fairbanks 38; 16. Plymouth State 27; 17. Michigan Tech 19; 17. Plymouth State 8; 18. St. Scholastica 6. Have not scored: Bates, Harvard, Wisconsin-Green Bay.Women's Slalom
1. Julie Mohagen, Utah, 1:29.63; 2. Laurence St.-Germaine, UVM, 1:30.00; 3. Monica Huebner, DU, 1:31.06; 4. Mardene Haskell, Colby, 1:31.15; 5. Nora Christensen, CU, 1:31.24; 6. Kristine Haugen, DU, 1:31.27; 7. Alexa Dlouhy, Dart., 1:31.58; 8. Kelly Moore, Dart., 1:31.61; 9. Hannah Hunsaker, Williams, 1:31.64; 10. Jocelyn McCarthy, MSU, 1:31.66.
Other CU Finishers: 15. Tonje Trulsrud, 1:32.07; 16. Thea Grosvold, 1:32.48.Men's Slalom
1. Erik Read, DU, 1:24.66; 2. Henrik Gunnarsson, CU, 1:24.68; 3. Brian McLaughlin, Dart., 1:24.82; 4. Dominique Garand, UVM, 1:24.85; 5. Max Luukko, CU, 1:25.41; 6. David Neuhauser, MSU, 1:25.48; 7. Garret Driller, MSU, and Morten Bakke, MSU, 1:25.59; 9. Guillaume Grand, St. Michael's, 1:25.71; 10. Endre Bjertness, Utah, 1:25.76.
Other CU Finisher: 33. Ola Johansen, 1:40.09.