Belshaws, Steamboat shine at Junior Championships
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Thursday was a big day for the Belshaw family at the USA Nordic Junior Championships in Steamboat Springs with Annika Belshaw winning the special jumping U20 women’s class and her brother Erik leading the U20 men’s class.
“It was really cool,” Erik Belshaw said of winning the special jumping title at the same event where his sister was crowned champion. “I look up to her, because she has a good work ethic, and she has worked really hard to get to the top where she is at.”
The brother-and-sister team, who just recently returned from the FIS Nordic World Ski Championships in Oberstdorf, Germany, were on top of their game Thursday morning as the USA Nordic Junior Championships opened on the HS 75 jump at Howelsen Hill Ski Area.
The athletes competed in U16 and U18 age classes in both men’s and women’s special jumping. The competition also was used to seed the start order for the Nordic combined competition that was scheduled for the afternoon.
The Belshaws’ finishes were just part of a strong local showing that included podiums in every class.
“It was great,” said Karl Denney, Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club special jumping and Nordic combined coach. “We actually had some good headwind coming up the hill, which is perfect for us. Both Erik Belshaw and Jason Colby kind of thrive in those conditions, and both of them had some of the longest rides of their respective classes.”
The women’s side
The women’s title in the U20 class came down to a dual between Annika Belshaw and Annika Malacinski who both call Howelsen Hill home.
Malacinski, who also just competed in Oberstdorf, kept things close by soaring 60.5 meters on her first jump and stepping up her game by going 66.5 meters on her second attempt as Belshaw watched from the top of the hill.
“She’s a good competitor and a good jumper,” Belshaw said of Malacinski. “I didn’t realize that we were that close. I just kind of went up there and jumped.”
Belshaw led both rounds going 66.5 on her first attempt and then capping the day off by going 71 meters on her final effort. She finished with 215.1 points to win the competition.
Malacinski, a Nordic combined skier, finished in second place in the class with 192.4 points. Park City ski jumper Samantha Macuga was third with 190 points. Steamboat’s Alexa Brabec was fourth at 177.1 points.
“She’s a special jumper, and I’m a Nordic combined skier, so they get to jump way more than us,” Malacinski said. “I was pretty proud of my jumping today, and it was a lot of fun.”
Park City jumper Josie Johnson earned the U16 title scoring 186.9 points and edging Steamboat’s Bonnie Sue Larson by just three points in the class. Estella Hassrick, of the Central Division, was third at 164.1 points, with Steamboat’s Emma Russell in fourth with a score of 143.6. Aspen Bennett-Manke placed fourth, Eva Minotto was sixth, Ella Wilson was seventh and Haley Brabec finished ninth.
The men’s side
Erik Belshaw recorded jumps of 68 and 70 meters to win the U20 men’s title with 226.8 points. Central Division skier Landon Lee was second with 200.4 points, and Steamboat’s Gunnar Gilbertson, a Nordic combined skier, was third with 186 points.
Belshaw credited his recent experience at the World Championships with some of his success Thursday, but he was happy to be back home even if the crowd size at the event was limited because of COVID-19 protocols.
“We don’t typically get huge crowds,” Belshaw said. “But I was really happy that we got to compete in this competition, especially with the situation going around the world.”
East Division Nordic combined skier Caleb Zuckerman edged out Steamboat’s Jason Colby to win the U16 class with 226.5 points. Colby was less than a point behind at 226.2, and Central Division skier Stewart Gundry was third at 211.6.
The championships will continue Friday with the men’s and women’s team events in both special jumping and Nordic combined. The events are being livestreamed at sswsc.org/events/sjncjuniorchamps.
John F. Russell is the business reporter at the Steamboat Pilot & Today. To reach him, call 970-871-4209, email jrussell@SteamboatPilot.com or follow him on Twitter @Framp1966.
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