Steamboat Springs It's been a memorable summer for Clint Jones and the members of the U.S. Ski Team's special jumping team.
"It's been great. I never expected to do that well," Jones said. "When it started I was hoping to finish in the top 15, but my expectations were a lot higher at the end."
The 17-year-old Steamboat Springs native set the ski jumping world on its ear by posting the best overall results in the summer Grand Prix in the history of the U.S. Ski Team.
Jones finished second Saturday in Innsbruck, Austria, ending a run for second-place in the overall Grand Prix standings with 354 total points. Austria's Andreas Windhoelz, who won the first five Grand Prix events, had his streak snapped by teammate Martin Hoellwarth in Saturday's final event. Windhoelz placed third, however, he took the overall Grand Prix title with 560 total points.
"It's never happened before," local ski jumping coach Chris Gilbertson said of Jones' second-place overall finish. "The American's have never finished third overall in the nation's cup either."
For special jumpers and Nordic Combined skiers the summer Grand Prix is the equivalent of the winter's World Cup tour.
The only difference is the jumper's launch off of porcelain inruns and land on plastic coated outruns instead of jumps graced with a layer of hard-packed snow.
Jones said the conditions on the jump hills are slightly different than the winter (porcelain and plastic tend to be a little more consistent than snow), but all the top jumpers from around the world show up in the summer with the same goal to win.
The American jumper from Steamboat is hoping the style he used to grab the No. 2 spot this summer will carry over into the winter season, which is scheduled to begin in November.
Jones credited a rigorous summer training program for his success on the slopes this year.
It is something he has been working on with teammate Alan Alborn.
Alborn also enjoyed strong results in the summer Grand Prix, but was testing new skis for many of the events and didn't place quite as high as Jones.
Alborn was 18th in Saturday's finale and 17th overall for the series.
"Everybody on the team is really positive right now," Jones said. "I think everybody on the team wants to keep things rolling into the winter."
Jones said the physical training program has been pretty much the same on the team for the past two seasons.
However, this year he feels stronger off of the jumps.
He thinks weight training three times a week for two hours a day has something to do with that new-found power, but he also thinks the fact his body is getting more mature has something to do with it as well.
Jones will turn 18 in a couple of weeks.
The team is currently preparing for a Continental Cup in Park City, Utah. They will also travel to Italy for more training before opening the World Cup season.
Last year, Jones started out strong on the World Cup, but struggled as the season went on. This year, he feels more confident and better able to handle the pressure that comes along with good results.
"I don't think I was ready for those results last year," Jones said. "After this summer I know that I can handle it."