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Bohonnon goes big, runs away with U.S. men’s aerials title

U.S. Freestyle Championships — Men's aerials finals

1 Mac Bohonnon, 129.41

2 Harrison Smith, 101.52

3 Zachary Surdell, 99.45

4 Chris Lillis, 93.06

5 Jasper Holcomb, 74.82

6 Nicholas Novak, 74.37

U.S. Freestyle Championships — Women's aerials finals

1 Ashley Caldwell, 69.66

2 Kiley McKinnon, 64.15

3 Tyra Izor, 59.24

4 Madison Varmette, 56.18

5 Avery Driscoll, 55.97

6 Miriah Johnson, 53.30

— By the time the clock struck 2 p.m. Saturday, freestyle aerials skier Mac Bohonnon had left no doubt.

U.S. Freestyle Championships — Men’s aerials finals

1 Mac Bohonnon, 129.41



2 Harrison Smith, 101.52

3 Zachary Surdell, 99.45



4 Chris Lillis, 93.06

5 Jasper Holcomb, 74.82

6 Nicholas Novak, 74.37

U.S. Freestyle Championships — Women’s aerials finals

1 Ashley Caldwell, 69.66

2 Kiley McKinnon, 64.15

3 Tyra Izor, 59.24

4 Madison Varmette, 56.18

5 Avery Driscoll, 55.97

6 Miriah Johnson, 53.30

The season’s aerials World Cup champion is now a national champion after sticking a monstrous double-full-full-full off Steamboat Ski Area’s biggest aerials kicker, a launch pad that not one of the other five competitors in Saturday’s U.S. aerials men’s finals dared to hit.

True to the sport’s roots, Bohonnon didn’t shy away from going for it all in the day’s final jump, and he stuck the landing, netting him a score of 129.41, the best of his career. It all came on the day after his 20th birthday.

“I had no intentions of backing down,” Bohonnon said. “It’s kind of the mantra of our sport: Go big or go home. It’s a cliché, but I just went up and did what I knew I wanted to do.”

The third day of competition at the U.S. Freestyle Championships drew a big crowd on one of the season’s warmest days on the slopes, and the athletes were going big despite the sloppy, slushy conditions.

Bohonnon entered the men’s finals as the top seed from the two-leap qualification rounds. He was joined in the finals by Harrison Smith, Nicholas Novak, Zachary Surdell, Jasper Holcomb and Chris Lillis.

Smith took the silver medal at nationals, nailing a solid double-full-full with a clean landing, good enough for a score of 101.52. Surdell jumped up a spot from the qualifier round to steal the bronze medal with his double-full-double-full jump, giving him a score of 99.45.

Lillis jumped up two spots to snag fourth (93.06), Holcomb was fifth (74.82) after a slightly shaky finals landing and Novak was sixth (74.37) with another offsetting landing.

Bohonnon said most of the jumpers hadn’t really tested their legs since competing in the Belarus World Cup on March 1. It was an eventful end to a solid season for the U.S. aerials team, which included two Crystal Globes, two World Cup titles and a Nationals Cup.

“Our team was the best team in the world,” Bohonnon said. “We’ve got so many great athletes on our team, so to show up here in a town that knows a little what aerials is about and kind of put on a show was awesome.”

While Bohonnon ran away with the men’s title, the women’s finals were a little closer than champion Ashley Caldwell would have liked.

After taking a nasty spill earlier in the day, Caldwell shook off the cobwebs and ended the season on a positive note, despite folding on her finals landing after a full-full-full jump.

Caldwell walked away with a score of 69.66 for gold, just ahead of Kiley McKinnon (64.15), who also lost her footing on her finals landing. Tyra Izor had a clean back layout in her finals run and took third with a score of 59.24.

“I think Kiley and I are a little bummed we both fell,” Caldwell said. “It would have been sweet to win with a landed jump, but at the same time, it’s nationals, and we were all dealing with the conditions out there.”

Madison Varmette made it up two spots in the finals to finish fourth (56.18), Avery Driscoll was fifth with 55.97 and Miriah Johnson was sixth with 53.30.

The U.S. Freestyle Championships will conclude with Sunday’s dual moguls competition on the ski area’s Voodoo course. First runs begin at 10:40 a.m. with awards at 3:30 p.m. in Gondola Square.

To reach Ben Ingersoll, call 970-871-4204, email bingersoll@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @BenMIngersoll


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