Glenwood’s Cornelius fourth in combined at nationals, Radamus wins super-G

Glenwood Springs skier Cooper Cornelius navigates the U.S. Alpine Championship course on Wednesday, April 7, 2021, at Aspen Highlands. (Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times)

After missing all of last season due to injury, Cooper Cornelius is still rounding back into form. But the Glenwood Springs ski racer put down some of his best runs of the season Wednesday, finishing just off the podium in the men’s combined at the U.S. Alpine Championships at Aspen Highlands.

“I feel great about today. It’s my best result so far in this series. I know I’m skiing well,” Cornelius told The Aspen Times. “It’s just a lack of consistency sometimes from top to bottom. I honestly thought my better run of the day was going to be in super-G, just because that’s been a stronger event all year for me. But it was a really nice surprise to throw down a slalom run and move up a few places.”

Cornelius, who grew up racing with the Aspen Valley Ski & Snowboard Club, was fourth in Wednesday’s combined with a two-run time of 1 minute, 47.66 seconds. He was 0.86 seconds off the pace set by combined winner Luke Winters, an Oregon native and U.S. B team member who had a time of 1:46.80. In second was Canadian and University of Denver skier Simon Fournier, 0.27 back, and in third was River Radamus, 0.51 back of Winters.

Middlebury’s Erik Arvidsson was fifth and Aspen’s Bridger Gile finished sixth in the combined, a day after snagging a podium in giant slalom. Vermont’s Ben Ritchie, who won Monday’s slalom national title, had the fastest slalom run on Wednesday (36.97 seconds), but was well off the pace in super-G.

Radamus, one of the country’s rising stars who hails from Edwards, won Wednesday’s super-G national championship, which also served as the first run of the combined race. His time of 1:08.64 held off Winters by 0.16 and Maine’s Sam Morse by 0.22. Radamus also won the delayed 2020 U.S. national championship in giant slalom prior to the season.

“In slalom, I knew I was in for a battle with Luke — he’s skiing amazing in slalom right now — and I really wanted to execute and give him a good fight,” Radamus said. “He’s really good though, so I didn’t quite do what I wanted to, but there’s no shame in losing to him right now, so I’m satisfied.”

Fourth in super-G on Wednesday was Aspen’s own Tristan Lane, who is currently skiing for DU. He was seventh in the combined.

The fourth-place combined finish was a satisfying result for Cornelius, who did not finish Monday’s slalom and was 15th in Tuesday’s GS. He was 10th fastest in super-G.

Currently 21, Cornelius is in his third season on the U.S. ski team, where he’s a member of the C team. Late in his first season with the national team, Cornelius suffered a major knee injury that forced him to miss all of the 2019-20 competition season. He made his return this past November at the 2020 national championships — delayed from last spring because of the pandemic — at Copper Mountain, and has kept up a rigorous schedule since then, competing in mostly FIS races and a few Europa Cup events.

“Definitely after a long year of travel, it’s nice to be an hour or so from where I live,” Cornelius said of nationals being held in Aspen. “It was generally good skiing, just some costly mistakes (throughout the season). And other days, maybe not so good. But that’s why you got to continue to grind and keep working at it. But it was the most time I’ve spent in Europe.”

The 2017 Glenwood Springs High School graduate said his knee is fully healed, although he’s still learning to regain the same mental confidence and trust in his body he had before the injury. But overall, Cornelius is feeling strong and determined to make a climb up the ladder next season. He’s knocking on the door of his first World Cup start and figures to be a factor in the battle to make the U.S. Olympic team next winter ahead of the 2022 Winter Games in China.

“A lot of it comes down to who is healthy next year. A lot of stuff can change, so you never know. But I definitely know I’m going to work as hard as I possibly can to be in that mix,” Cornelius said. “I’m very excited for the challenge. I’m more than ready to make a statement as soon as the next year kicks off.”

Cornelius also plans to compete in the men’s downhill national championship on Saturday. That race, along with the women’s downhill, was moved up a day from Sunday by the race jury late Wednesday. They condensed the two days of downhill training into one day, which will take place Friday. There is a FIS race — as in, not for a national championship — slated for Thursday.