Jumpers soar without snow

American athletes earn top-10 finishes in Continental Cup

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— Members of the American ski jumping team made some noise Friday at a Continental Cup meet in Park City, Utah, collecting several top finishes including three jumpers in the top 10.

"Things are going well right now," Steamboat Springs jumper Tommy Schwall said. "The training has been good all summer and it's showing in the results."

Schwall soared to his best international finish of the summer, netting 249.3 points for fifth place.

Poland's Marcin Bachleda won the event, scoring 259 points on his two jumps to edge Slovenia's Bine Norcic who took second with 258.2 points and teammate Bine Zupan who scored 255 points.

Steamboat Springs jumper Clint Jones was the top American, taking fourth with 255 points. Schwall was fifth and Maine jumper Brian Welch was ninth with 235.9 points.

In the summer, skiers come down a porcelain in-run and jump onto a hill layered in plastic matting which, when sprayed with a water mist, simulates snow conditions. The new plastic-covered jumps have made ski jumping a year-round sport.

"I've made about 250 jumps this summer," Schwall said. "It's not a lot, but we've been doing a lot of traveling and other types of training."

Jumpers such as Schwall and Jones are hoping that success in the summer will translate to success this winter during the World Cup tour.

Jones, who was second on Friday and second Saturday after the first round, struggled with his final jump. He finished with jumps of 129 and 126 meters.

"My last jump felt like I had a much better jump," Jones said. "It felt like I was going to go 140 meters, but when I got to 105, maybe 110, the air just dropped away at the bottom of the hill."

Jones has become the leader of the young American team and is having a strong summer.

He won two domestic competitions July 4 in Lake Placid, and was second and third last weekend in Continental Cups on the 90-meter hill in Calgary.

Things will get kicked up a notch early next month, however, when the Americans travel to Germany and France for the Summer Grand Prix -- the most prestigious events of the short summer season.

"It's the summer World Cup," Schwall said. "We want to go there and be competitive. I'm shooting for a top-30, but I don't think that a top-10 is out of reach."

The team will leave Aug. 4 for a pair of jumping events in Hinterzarten, Germany on Aug. 9 and 10. The team is then expected to visit Courchevel, France, for the final stop of the grand prix on Aug. 13.

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