Big early run sets Murphy on top |

Big early run sets Murphy on top

— Troy Murphy put it out there, and no one could come and take it.

Murphy was in the middle of the pack of the 16 skiers who made the men’s finals Friday in the U.S. Freestyle National Championships, landing the eighth best run in qualifications. He laid down a big and blistering run in finals, however, and no one could match him.

The Park City, Utah, skier won his first national championship Friday in Steamboat Springs, scoring a 93.95.

“It’s pretty huge,” Murphy said. “It hasn’t really sunk in yet. It’s huge for me. It’s a great way for me to end the season.”

For Murphy, the result was a sweet end to an up-and-down season and another big step on a career that’s headed upwards.

He was the 2014 FIS Rookie of the Year in his first season on the U.S. Ski Team.

This year, he was good enough to make the World Championships team but didn’t threaten the leaders there, finishing 11th and 27th.

He skied on the World Cup all season but didn’t see a podium and came close only once, placing fourth at a February World Cup in Canada.

Early Friday it looked like he was in for another such performance, one that was certainly good, but not quite great.

In the morning’s qualification round, he bobbled on a mogul after landing his trick on the top air. He was easily in the final, but back from the leader, eighth out of 16.

It all came together later in the day, however. He had the round’s best turns scores. His jumps, too, stood out, and he was the highest scoring in that category, as well.

“I felt like it was a good one. I knew it would be hard to beat,” he said. “The jumps finally came together, and I made a little adjustment coming out of the top.”

It wasn’t a done deal, however, and plenty of the nation’s top skiers made a run at Murphy.

When an early skier lays down a big run like that, it echoes up and down the course — those still to come noting to themselves that simply being clean won’t be enough.

Whether that pressure took a toll, or the snow, growing slushier by the second, factored in, something took hold of the rest of the field. No one else could put down a clean run.

Some bobbled high and others lost their balance on landings.

The two final skiers down the course, Joesph Discoe and Thomas Rowley, came as close as anyone, finishing second and third respectively, but they didn’t quite have enough.

Discoe was in at 89.03 and Rowley 87.32.

“I’ve won it before, so it was hard with Troy laying down such a good, high-scoring run,” Discoe said. “You just have to put your run down and see what pans out. I felt good. I had a good, solid run.”

Whatever derailed many of Friday’s men did the same for Steamboat’s two contenders.

Jeremy Cota qualified third in the morning and was rocketing down the run when he lost balance shortly before the second jump. He kicked a leg out to maintain balance but had to pull up anyway, ending his chance to get on the podium.

Ryan Dyer didn’t make it to finals after he lost a ski in the long stretch of moguls between jumps.

“It’s frustrating because I didn’t feel like I did anything wrong,” Dyer said. “I felt like I was skiing well, and before I knew it, I lost a shoe. I put my face down hard into the moguls, crashed pretty good.”

He and the rest of the field will have a shot at another national title Sunday in the dual moguls competition.

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

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