Young ‘up-and-comer’ takes home gold at Ski Jumping Extravaganza
Nearly 50 of the nation’s best Nordic athletes took to the skies on Monday at the 16th annual Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club Ski Jumping Extravaganza.
Each year, athletes from all over the country come together to take on the HS75 ski jump at Howelsen Hill in hopes to be crowned a champion and take home some prize money.
This year, competitors ranging from ages 13 to 25 battled in a five-round, elimination format that whittled the field down from 45 participants to one ultimate champion.
Karl Denney, the U16 and U18 ski jumping and Nordic combined coach at SSWSC, was proud of the event they had put together and even more proud of his athletes.
“We’ve been drawing bigger and bigger crowds out here recently and getting the kids to jump in front of all the locals here is just a huge deal for them,” he said. “Obviously, you saw some of the younger guys pulling out some of the best jumps that they’ve had in weeks, and that’s because they’re hyped and ready to go.”
In the fifth and final round, just four athletes remained including Steamboat’s Grant Andrews, Jason Colby, and Sawyer Graves as well as Caleb Zuckerman of Ford Sayre Ski Club.
The very last jump of the day would go to Graves who earned that right with the furthest jump in the previous round. At just 14 years old, he was the youngest competitor in the final four but had the advantage of knowing what distances he needed to beat.
Graves took off down the inrun, soared through the sky and landed with an event-winning distance of 74 meters.
“It was really crazy,” Graves said. “People would think that I’d be super stressed out to go farther than everybody else but all I really felt was excitement from how good my competitors were doing. I was mainly rooting for them, but it was awesome that I got the chance to win.”
Andrews, who was the first to jump in that final round, was the oldest and most experienced competitor in the final four. He led off with a 72.5 meter jump, but came just shy of the prize money and ended with a fourth-place finish.
Andrews enjoyed the stress-free aspect of the competition and was proud to be a part of the final four.
“It’s more of a fun event, especially for us older kids and I think a lot of these young kids take it pretty serious but we’re just out there to have fun,” Andrews said. “I just went out there and did what I could.”
Zuckerman and Colby tied for second place, each with a final jump of 73 meters.
The prize money was collected from the crowd throughout the duration of the event, contributing over $2,500 dollars. Seventy percent of the prize money went to the event winner, Graves, while 30% was split between Zuckerman and Colby for their second-place finishes.
The athletes put on an amazing show for the fans, and were excited to hear the crowd roar as they came down the outrun.
“This is huge for the kids because it’s a hometown event,” Denney said. “It’s not the typical format and the kids really enjoy this type of elimination and longest standing format where we put emphasis on going far and hyping up the crowd.”
To reach Tom Skulski, call 970-871-4240, email tskulski@SteamboatPilot.com.
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