Berend leads U.S. squad in World Juniors Championship |

Berend leads U.S. squad in World Juniors Championship

— The results for U.S. Nordic combined skiers were strong at the first event of the FIS Junior World Ski Championships. They were even better Friday at the second event.

Steamboat Springs skier Ben Berend posted his best results from one of the biggest events of his career, placing 13th in Friday’s normal hill, 10-kilometer Nordic combined event in Almaty, Kazakhstan.

Berend, who’s competed in two World Cup events this season, started his day with a solid jump, leaping into 12th place in a field of 50 jumpers and starting the ski race one minute, 20 seconds off the leader Jarl Magnus Riiber of Norway.

Riiber went on to win the race very comfortably, by 47.4 seconds. Berend was in 1:42.2 after the leader.

He led the way for a solid day for U.S. competitors. Jasper Good, also a Steamboater, was 27th, moving up two spots after jumping into 29th position. Koby Vargas, yet another Steamboat Springs competitor, was 41st. Vargas, at 15, is the youngest of the U.S. contingent and the sixth youngest in the field.

Somer Schrock finished 44th for the United States.

The team is back in action today with a team event, the last of the junior world championships.

Worlds team announced

The Nordic combined World Championship team, already unofficially known, was made official Friday. Leading the team is Steamboat Springs’ Fletcher brothers, Bryan Fletcher and Taylor Fletcher.

The event begins Feb. 18 in Falun, Sweden.

It will be Bryan’s third World Championships. He was first on the team in 2007 in Sapporo, Japan. He also competed in 2011 in Norway and in 2013 in Italy, where he earned his best individual result.

Billy Demong also will be back for what’s likely to be his swan song in the sport. The New York-born skier spent several years living and training in Steamboat. This will be his seventh World Championships, dating back to a stop in Austria in 1999.

He’s had plenty of sparkling results along the way, a career crowned by World Championship gold in an individual event in Czech Republic in 2009. He won bronze at the championships in another individual competition.

Demong and both Fletchers also scored a World Championship medal in 2013 when they joined Todd Lodwick to win bronze in a relay.

Berend, who grew up in Steamboat, and Adam Loomis, a Wisconsinite who trained in Steamboat, round out the team. Both will be competing in their first World Championships.

“We are looking forward to Falun,” coach Dave Jarrett said in a U.S. Ski Team press release. “Both Bryan and Taylor have shown that with a good jump they are among the fastest guys in nordic combined and can compete for the podium. Loomis has had a breakthrough season by scoring his first World Cup points but backing that result up with other top 30s.

“Berend is our young guy who we named because he is already pretty good on the jumping hill and will continue to improve on the cross country side.”

Opening ceremonies are on Feb. 18 and the first competition, a normal hill individual Gundersen event, follows on Feb. 20. A normal hill team competition is on Feb. 24, a large hill individual event on Feb. 26 and the final event, a large hill team sprint, on Feb. 28.

To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 970-871-4253, email or follow him on Twitter @JReich9

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