PARK CITY, Utah — Park City's Anders Johnson and Jessica Jerome took titles Saturday as the 2008 backcountry.com U.S. Ski Jumping Championships got underway in Park City on the HS134 (134 meter) big hill at the Utah Olympic Park. It was the first title for Johnson, and the fifth for Jerome.
It was a breakthrough win for the junior Johnson, a 2006 Olympian who recently led the U.S. World Junior Championship squad to one of its best finishes in recent history in the team event in Poland. Jerome, meanwhile, used the opportunity to chalk up another benchmark in her return from injury last year. Just a week ago she was third in the Continental Cup finale in Zao, Japan.
"It means a lot to me," Johnson said. "I think I've been fourth place at nationals like the last five years and I've never been on the podium. It's been a long time coming. It's a relief off my shoulder to finally be on the podium and even means more to be on the top."
Johnson came into the competition as a dark horse behind two of the U.S. nordic combined team's top jumpers, Johnny Spillane and Bill Demong, who a week ago finished third in the season long World Cup. Johnson put together jumps of 120.0 and 124.5 – the long ride of the day – to take the victory by a 10 point margin over Spillane. Nick Alexander was the bronze medalist.
Despite missing the win in Friday's USSA SuperTour, Johnson came in with high confidence to the Championships, hoping to break the string of titles by nordic combined jumpers.
"The way I've been jumping all season I kind of expected to win nationals," said Johnson. "Yesterday though was just a SuperTour and I was trying too hard and a little nervous and that resulted in me finishing way back. Today I was a lot more relaxed and it felt good to get this good result."
Jerome earned her fifth title, but the first in several years, with jumps of 119.5 and 112.5 to win over 13-year-old Sarah Hendrickson (Park City, UT). Jerome's U.S. Ski Team teammate Abby Hughes (Park City, UT) was third.
"It's a confidence booster," said Jerome. "After coming back from surgery [last year] I was having a hard time both physically and mentally getting back into it so this definitely helps. I was off a little from yesterday, but it was good enough."
Jerome had won a day earlier in the USSA SuperTour.
Competition continued Saturday evening with the 7.5 km nordic combined sprint. The competition will use the first round of Saturday morning's jump paired with the 7.5 km cross-country race.
The Championships conclude Sunday with men's and women's jumps on the normal hill beginning at 8 a.m.
2008 backcountry.com U.S. Ski Jumping Championships
Park City, UT – March 15, 2008
HS134 (134 meter) Jump
1. Anders Johnson, Park City, UT (120.0, 124.5) 236.1
2. Johnny Spillane, Steamboat Springs, CO, (117.0, 124.0) 226.3
3. Nick Alexander, Lebanon, NH, (117.0, 123.0) 225.0
4. Bill Demong, Vermontville, NY, (113.0, 125.5) 222.8
5. Chris Lamb, Lake Placid, NY, (112.5, 122.5) 216.5
1. Jessica Jerome, Park City, UT, (119.5, 112.5) 205.6
2. Sarah Hendrickson, Park City, UT, (102.0, 109.0) 171.8
3. Abby Hughes, Park City, UT, (107.0, 104.5) 169.2
4. Alissa Johnson, Park City, UT, (101.0, 102.0) 153.9
5. Brenna Ellis, Park City, UT, (101.0, 98.5) 143.1