The team that hadn’t lost a race all season lost a race Friday.
The skier who finished on the podium in every race this season placed fifth.
And on a wild and wacky final day at the Class A State Skiing Championships, Falmouth’s ability to rebound after a horrendous first run outweighed Mt. Blue’s ability to hang on to what would have been a monumental comeback.
All six Falmouth skiers fell — two were disqualified — in Friday’s first run, but the four remaining racers managed remarkable second runs to hold off Mt. Blue to earn the Class A state skiing title by four points over the Cougars at Black Mountain.
“Those four guys finished, and they finished well enough,” Falmouth coach Tip Kimball said. “We’re definitely disappointed with the alpine, but we were able to salvage the overall, which is a good thing. Our nordic team did a real good job yesterday to make that possible.”
Falmouth, the best alpine team in the Western Maine Conference all season, hadn’t lost a race in two years.
But Friday, that all changed. Alex Gowen clipped a gate and fell. Joseph Lesniak and Weston Scott followed suit. Benjamin Hilfrank missed twice and eventually skied off the course. Sam Hamilton finished well, but then No. 6 skier John Cooper Lycan missed the second-to-last gate of the course, negating his sixth-place time in the first run.
“We make it clear to the kids, you know, ‘Don’t get cocky, we know we have a 21-point lead for alpine, no need to be heroes,'” Kimball said. “They don’t like to hear that all the time, and apparently it didn’t sink in.”
Meanwhile, Mt. Blue’s Lucas Bonnevie fired off the best first run by nearly four seconds. Max and North Kay found their way into the top 10 for Mt. Blue, and Eli Cohen rounded out the scorers with a top 25 finish.
The second run, that all changed — again.
After Gowen nailed the top time of the second run, Bonnevie lost a ski at the top of the headwall. He hiked back to his missed gate, and still managed a fifth-place finish overall. The Kays bettered their standing from the first run, and Cohen held true for the Cougars.
“We were very pleased with Max Kay, North Kay. They both had a great day,” Mt. Blue coach Mark Cyr said. “They both skied smart.”
But the Yachtsmen weren’t done with the fast times. Lesniak turned in the second-best time of the second run to climb into 17th, and Scott improved to 16th with the fourth-best time of the second run. Hamilton held true as the Yachtsmen’s fourth skier, and what had turned from uncatchable lead to insurmountable deficit was back to a slim margin of victory in Falmouth’s favor.
“We managed the skiing version of a Hail Mary,” Kimball said. “After we got the team together and got over our anger, we regrouped and asked, ‘OK, what are we going to do about this?’ The only way we were going to salvage this was if they had a racer or two have the same thing happen to them, and our racers, it wasn’t just a ‘get down in one piece’ kind of run. This was, we needed to get two of them in the top five (of the second run) and two more in the top 10.”
Mt. Blue won the slalom race by 30, and with it the Class A alpine combined title by nine points.
“We had to put two complete runs together. The kids skied smart and we knew what we had to do,” Cyr said.
The Cougars fell just four points shy of an overall title, what would have been their sixth in a row. Instead, Falmouth claims its third consecutive state title, its first in Class A after two in a row in Class B. Falmouth also won a Class D state title in 1976.
Curtis Paradis of Biddeford and Nicholas Papsadora of Thornton Academy finished 1-2 in Friday’s slalom, with Lewiston’s Reilly Bolduc joining the two on the podium in third position. Matt Michaud of Oxford Hills finished in fourth, with EL’s Ben Bowles in seventh.
Following Mt. Blue and Falmouth in the combined alpine championship were Marshwood and Edward Little. In the overall championship, Oxford Hills placed third and Leavitt fourth.