Fletcher helps division bring home the gold

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If you ask jumping and Nordic combined coach Chris Gilbertson, he'll say the Rocky Mountain Division's gold medals at last weekend's 2004 Junior Olympic championships in Anchorage, Alaska, were not unexpected -- but nice just the same.

Steamboat Springs Nordic combined skier Taylor Fletcher highlighted the showing with a first-place finish in the 5-kilometer individual event Friday.

"My jumping had gotten a lot better the past couple of weeks," Fletcher said. "I was hoping for a top 10 when I got to Anchorage, just because my jumping has been a little shaky. But I jumped well, and I got the win."

He was followed by teammate Charlie Stoddard in second and Utah ski jumper Buck Bailey in third. Steamboat's Brett Denney was sixth and teammate Sam Chovan came in eighth.

Fletcher also was part of the RMD team that captured the Nordic combined team sprint title -- by holding off two teams from the Intermountain Division -- on March 4.

That team included Fletcher, Stoddard, Chovan and Denney.

"Taylor figured out the jumps quickly, and it showed in his results," Gilbertson said. "Some of other guys didn't figure it out until the last day or even the last round."

Gilbertson was thrilled to see the Rocky Mountain Division dominate the Nordic combined events at the Olympics -- taking both gold medals.

The Intermountain Division, based in Park City, Utah, claimed the special jumping titles.

Anders Johnson won the individual event on the K64 hill March 5. The top Rocky Mountain skiers in the event were Fletcher in third and Stoddard in ninth.

"The special jumping competition was probably my favorite event of the week," Fletcher said.

He finished third in the final results, but the Nordic combined athlete gave a pair of special jumpers in front of him a run for their money.

The Intermountain skiers also topped the K64 special jumping team event. The Central Division was second and another team from the Intermountain Division was third.

Steamboat's Fletcher, Stoddard, Denney and Adam Peters formed the top RMD team in fourth place.

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