Young jumper gains respect

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— Utah ski jumper Jessica Jerome went to the top of Howelsen Hill in search of titles this week, but what she found was respect.

She left Thursday with a pair of crowns, as well as the respect of coaches, competitors and her peers who were in town for the Chevy Trucks U.S. National Championships.

"I had never jumped this hill until I came here this week," Jerome said of Howelsen. "I really like it and I'm psyched that I could come out on top."

Jerome dominated the field in Wednesday's normal hill championships. She soared 87.5 meters on her first jump and then followed up the effort with a distance of 89 meters on her second attempt.

The jumps propelled her into first place in the field of five women who competed in this year's national championships. She scored 208 points to earn the top spot on the podium.

The next closest competitor was Lindsay Van in second at 157 points and Liz Szotyori in third at 136 points. Both Jerome and Van are from Utah. Szotyori is from the East.

Jerome said it's difficult to break into a male-dominated sport such as ski jumping mainly because ski jumping is a hard sport in general.

"It's just hard to be a ski jumper period," Jerome said. "It's hard to keep up in school, it's hard to make friends (all of her friends are ski jumpers) and it's hard to get recognized."

But this week the young ski jumper made winning look easy on the slopes of Howelsen Hill, and she was recognized for her efforts with two national titles.

"I just love to ski jump," Jerome said. "I wouldn't ant to be doing anything else."

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