Ryan St. Onge came from behind to win men's aerials Thursday at the Sprint U.S. Freestyle Championships with a stunning second jump to edge Scotty Bahrke. Emily Cook led both women's rounds to win her third U.S. title. Competition was delayed nearly two hours while a raging blizzard passed through the Utah Olympic Park in Park City.
PARK CITY, Utah — Ryan St. Onge came from behind to win men's aerials Thursday at the Sprint U.S. Freestyle Championships with a stunning second jump to edge Scotty Bahrke. Emily Cook led both women's rounds to win her third U.S. title. Competition was delayed nearly two hours while a raging blizzard passed through the Utah Olympic Park in Park City.
Bahrke soared into the first jump lead over St. Onge. But the three-time champ St. Onge came roaring back with the big jump of the day to take his fourth title and first since 2005. Matt DePeters took bronze for his first U.S. Championships podium. St. Onge won with a score of 196.51 to 194.22 for Bahrke. DePeters finished with a personal best 175.49.
Cook, meanwhile, was solid on both jumps to hold off a challenge from FIS World Cup Rookie of the Year Allison Treleaven to take gold. Olympian Jana Lindsey was third. Cook scored 175.53 to 151.10 for Treleaven. Lindsey came in at 143.65.
St. Onge Knew It Would Be Close
The weather forced officials to limit jumps to double flips, no triples. That took away some of the edge St. Onge anticipated going in.
"I knew at the beginning of the day it was going to be a challenge to beat those guys," said St. Onge. "Dylan Ferguson and Scotty Bahrke both have really good triple twisting doubles. I knew since it was going to be a limited DD [degree of difficulty] event that they were going to be on an even playing field with me and I was going to have work hard to do it."
St. Onge was down by nearly two points after the first jump, a full-double full (triple twisting double back flip). On his second jump he hit a near perfect double full-full to take the lead.
"Being second after the first round confirmed I had to get my stuff together and try and squeak it out. I had a really nice second jump and even though Bahrke also had a great second jump, I squeaked him out."
Bahrke was disappointed to drop into silver, but excited nonetheless about his season. "It felt really good to come out and do well at nationals so I'm excited," he said. "I had to back it down a little bit because during training it was really nasty. I ended up doing two triple twisting doubles, was able to land them both, so I'm happy and really excited about the event."
Bahrke, who was the FIS World Cup Rookie of the Year last season, stepped it up toward the end of the season, including a top five result in Moscow. "I couldn't be happier," he added. "My season started a little rough but to finish in the top 10 at my last World Cups and finish second at nationals, I couldn't ask for anything more."
Cook Solid Start to Finish for Third Title
Cook was smooth and solid on both jumps. She started off with her traditional full-full, two back flips with a twist on each flip. And she finished off her season nailing a full-double full, a triple twisting double back flip new to her repertoire this season.
"It's exciting to be rewarded for a good performance," said Cook. "I knew I jumped my best out there today. I'm really happy about that. Two national titles in a row, that's really exciting. I hope I can keep it going for next year."
It was a great homecoming for Cook, who moved from Massachusetts to Park City some years ago and is a mentor to many young athletes.
"It's been an amazing season and to come out here to one of our home venues in Park City and have all our friends and family out here is so great," she said. "It's also cool to be up there with a lot of the younger athletes. All of them are vying for their U.S. Ski Team starts here. It's a really important competition for them and we take it very seriously. We have so much fun too. It was a great event today."
Treleaven moved up from fourth last year to score her first U.S. Championship medal. "My first jump was a full-tuck and my second was a lay-tuck," she said. "Both felt pretty good and had solid landings. They were pretty big so I was happy with them."
Her silver capped a strong season, which "Right now I'm just taking it all in," she said. "It was a long season but a really fun and successful season. I'm really happy and this is a great way to finish."
Weather Provides Big Challenge
A morning snow squall delayed training, resulting in a later start. At times there was no visibility to the top and athletes never had a shot at training on the huge, towering triple kicker. So jumps were limited to double flips for the competition.
"The weather was really tricky today," said Cook. "We had snow and wind and it's hard to gauge where to start and what your speeds were going to be. We rely a lot on our coaches, who did an amazing job to help us decide where to start. It probably was a good experience for the younger athletes too. We always have [weather] conditions. It's great to come out here throw my biggest tricks in difficult conditions and end up on the podium."
"Unfortunately I couldn't do the new trick I worked," said St. Onge. "I would have really liked to have better weather today to do bigger tricks, go higher and stick some triple flips. But it wasn't safe up there and everybody agreed doubles was going to be a better event.
"It's always frustrating when you can't perform the tricks you love to do. But it was a good fun event for me and I'm really happy I won."
The strong, but inconsistent, tailwind provided a challenge. The coaches on the knoll had their work cut out for them ensuring their athletes' speeds on the in-run were accurate going into the towering jumps. "Our coaches had us all set up today with the winds and it turned out to be great," said Treleaven.
Breakout Day for Young Skiers
It was a big day for the Waterville Valley, N.H., freestyle program with three top fives, including an impressive bronze for DePeters, who was 10th in the World Junior Championships in 2007. It was his first U.S. Championships medal, moving up from sixth last year. He was joined by Waterville Valley skiers Hans Gardner, who was fourth, and Ashley Caldwell, who was fourth in the women's event.
"I didn't have any real expectations, I just wanted to come in and hit my jumps," said DePeters. "I'm really happy – it's a new PR [personal record] score for me. To get third at nationals feels really good. It finishes off a nice season and hopefully I'll get a national ski team spot. We're all friends out there but to be ahead of a couple of the Team guys feels pretty good – like you're ready to ski at that level and be up there with them."
DePeters and Gardner are both Buffalo-area natives who ski and train with the Buffalo Ski Club and have been longtime participants in the Waterville Valley program of Nick Preston. "These are really great athletes," said Preston. "And I'm especially excited about Ashley Caldwell, who just turned 14."
"It was nice to see some of the new kids from the regions," said U.S. Ski Team A
erials Head Coach Matt Christensen. "That was really good for me to see. I was pretty excited. Nick Preston and his son Wes have always had a really strong aerials program. They're [coaching] who we're looking at."
"I had the opportunity to work with [Matt DePeters] for the first time at World Juniors last year. When I saw him jump, I knew he was going to be good. He showed it today and that was really good to see."
SPRINT U.S. FREESTYLE CHAMPIONSHIPS
Park City, UT – March 27, 2008
1. Ryan St. Onge, Winter Park, CO, 196.51
2. Scotty Bahrke, Park City, UT, 194.22
3. Matthew Depeters, Hamburg, NY, 175.49
4. Hans Gardner, Orchard Park, NY, 151.66
5. Dylan Ferguson, Amesbury, MA, 148.22
6. Zac Amidan, Ogden, UT, 143.29
7. Lucas Constenius, Whitefish, MT, 134.66
8. Paul Sullivan, Waterville Valley, NH, 133.95
9. Andris Blumbergs, Lake Placid, NY, 120.88
10. Austin Bourret, Ketchum, ID, 115.07
1. Emily Cook, Belmont, MA, 175.53
2. Allison Treleaven, Ft. Wayne, IN, 151.10
3. Jana Lindsey, Black Hawk, SD, 143.65
4. Ashley Caldwell, Hamilton, VA, 115.86
5. Karen Kiczek, Park City, UT, 98.28
6. Sami Palmer, Sandy, UT, 95.72
7. Erica Knell, Park City, UT, 86.97
8. Lindsay Mustard, Mt. Kisco, NY, 82.37
9. Amy David, Pinedale, WY, 77.50
10. Ellison McMillan, Erda, UT, 70.10