Casey Larson (left), Will Rhoads (center), and Kevin Bickner (right) stand atop the podium at the 2018 US Large Hill National Championships. (USA Nordic Sport-Clint Jones)
PARK CITY, UT – Will Rhoads and Nita Englund both took home gold on Saturday morning at the 2018 US Large Hill National Championships. Though the competition was delayed at times due to wind, both Rhoads and Englund remained focused and resilient and, ultimately, rose to the challenge.
The day started off calm and cool, with the trail and first competitive rounds going off without a hitch. After a first round jump of 111.5 meters, Englund was holding onto a sliver of a lead over Women’s Ski Jumping USA teammates Abby Ringquist and Tara Geraghty-Moats, as well as NYSEF athlete Nina Lussi. Ringquist, Geraghty-Moats, and Lussi were all tied for second, only six tenths of a point behind Englund. The tight competition meant that the title was anyone’s to win, but Englund secured her position at the top. She soared 123.5 meters in the second round, the longest jump of the day in the women’s class, giving her a combined total of 207.5 points. She was joined on the podium by Abby Ringquist in second with 198.5 points, and Nina Lussi in third with 197 points. Both Ringquist and Lussi had jumps of 115.5 in the second round, but Ringquist broke the tie with slightly better style points.
As the sun began to beat down at Utah Olympic Park for the second round of the mens’ competition, the wind began to pick up and the athletes left at the top faced multiple delays.
US National Team member Bryan Fletcher was one of the first victims of the weather, being pulled on and off the bar multiple times before his second jump of 122 meters. The first big delay of the day meant that Fletcher, and all of the athletes remaining, had to wait nearly 15 minutes before the round continued. A few jumpers later, Mike Glasder recorded the longest jump of the day at 135.5 meters. However, a hand drag caused him to slip out of contention for the podium. The jump prompted the jury to announce a 30 minute hold. Rather than wait out the wind and hope for the best, however, the remaining athletes at the top of the hill all agreed go from a lower speed to counter the wind.
Casey Larson, who sat fourth after the first round, was the first to go from the lower gate and had his “best jump of the week,” soaring 131.5 meters. The jump was enough to move Larson up to second place. But the battle for the title really came down to the last two jumpers on the hill. Kevin Bickner, sitting in second after a first round jump of 130.5 meters, struggled as wind conditions changed and dropped to third after jumping 118 meters in his second jump.
Rhoads, who lead after the first round, was the last competitor on the hill. A local skier who has taken home the title each of the last two years, Rhoads was steadfast and knew exactly what he needed to do. The jump of 123.5 meters was not as far as his first round, but it was enough to keep him in contention. When style points were added to his distance points, Rhoads once again found himself on top as the 2018 US Large Hill National Champion.
The competition on the Large Hill capped off a week of competitions that saw over 150 athletes come together in Park City for the 19th Annual Jindro Mayer Springer Tournee. In what has become the largest event held annually in North America, athletes from as far as Alaska and Canada spent the week testing, training, and competing together under the hot Utah sun. The event, which has grown every year since its inception, was a testament to the growth that Ski Jumping and Nordic Combined has seen in recent years in North America.
2018 U.S. Ski Jumping Large Hill National Championships
Gold – Will Rhoads (USA Nordic/Park City, UT)
Silver – Casey Larson (USA Nordic/Cary, Il)
Bronze – Kevin Bickner (USA Nordic/Wauconda, Il)
Gold – Nita Englund (Women’s Ski Jumping USA/Florence, WI)
Silver – Abby Ringquist (Women’s Ski Jumping USA/Park City, UT)
Bronze – Nina Lussi (New York Ski Education Foundation/Lake Placid, NY)
*Canadian Taylor Henrich topped the women’s field with 226.5 points, while countryman Josh Maurer was third overall in the men’s competition with 245.8 points. While their results are reflected in the overall standings, both were ineligible to receive awards due to the fact that the competition was a National Championship.
Check back with us soon for a more detailed look at the 19th Annual Jindro Mayer Springer Tournee with insights and photos!