Steamboat Springs Sitting at the top of Howelsen Hill's biggest jump, local favorite Johnny Spillane knew he needed to uncork the best jump of the day if he had any chance of prying the large hill title away from defending champion Alan Alborn.
"It was kind of hard. The air was so dead that you needed to get really high to go far," Spillane said. "I know Alan (Alborn) and Clint (Jones) are both really good jumpers. They both have the potential to be the very best in the world, so to win out there you have to have two good jumps."
Spillane, a Nordic combined skier, did uncork the jump of the day as he launched off Howelsen into the calm mountain air and soared 123 meters to take the title with a combined score of 254 points.
Alborn finished in second at 256.9 and Steamboat skier Clint Jones was third at 240.1
Steamboat's Todd Lodwick was fourth at 230.3, Logan Gerber came in fifth at 223.1 and Jim Denny was sixth at 212.2 points.
Tommy Schwall (7th), Rector Hartman (8th), Tim Nelson (9th) and Andres Johnson (10th) rounded out the top 10 on Wednesday.
"Normally nationals is just like one guy who runs away with it, but the last couple of years it's definitely become more of a competition. There were four or five guys who up there fighting for the top spot," Jones said.
Jones said the finishes were not exactly what the American special jumping team had been hoping for going into the event. The season has been particularly frustrating considering America had one of its best showings ever in the summer Grand Prix, Jones said.
"This summer was excellent for me, but I still haven't been able to get back up to where I was hoping to be," Jones said. 'Eventually I know I will get it there ... I've jumped that well before and I know that I can do it again. Right now, I'm just kind of waiting for it to come back around."
Fellow special jumper Alan Alborn said he made a bad choice with his jump suit in the first round. He laid down the second longest ride in the second round, but hurt his knee on the landing. He just had surgery on the knee a couple of months ago.
The national championships will continue today with the final event on the K-90 hill.
The top skiers will start jumping with the trial round at 9 a.m. Two competitive rounds will follow to determine which ski jumper will earn the final national crown.
Following the national events, most of the top skiers will be headed to Europe for the World Championships in Val di Fiemme, Italy.