Nation's best ski jumpers face off

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Nordic combined skier Todd Lodwick was hanging out on a beach in Hawaii on Saturday, relaxing after another busy winter of World Cup competition.

But by next weekend, Lodwick and other top American Nordic combined athletes and special jumpers will be back in Steamboat Springs hoping for lower temperatures -- and a shot at earning one last title this season.

"Holding an event this time of year is extremely tough," event co-chair Kathi Meyer said. "We are all hoping for a streak of winter weather this week."

Once the events are completed, Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club coach Gary Crawford said the jumps at Howelsen Hill will be closed for the season.

Meyer said 75 athletes, many from the American Nordic combined and special jumping teams, will be in Steamboat battling for three titles and the prize money that goes along with the crown. Five women will contend for national titles. Those women recently returned from Europe where they competed against the top women in the world.

Crawford said it's a unique opportunity for his younger skiers to see first hand what it takes to be a member of a U.S. Team.

Next week's events, which are scheduled to begin Saturday with the K-90 special jumping and Nordic combined events, will begin early in the morning or take place later in the afternoon to avoid the higher temperatures in the middle of the day, Crawford said.

Although start times are tentative and will be dictated by the weather, Crawford expects Saturday's first round to begin at 7 a.m. with the trial, followed by official jumping at 8 a.m.

The Nordic combined race is tentatively scheduled to begin at 5:30 p.m. Saturday. However, Meyer said that time may still have to be changed. If the weather gets cooler, it will be earlier in the day, if it gets warmer, it could take place later.

The jumpers will head to the big hill next Sunday for the final event of the National Championships. Once again, the jumping will begin early with the first official round scheduled for 8 a.m.

Meyer said she is thrilled that ESPN will be in town to televise the events. The program will air April 7.

-- To reach John F. Russell call 871-4209

or e-mail jrussell@steamboatpilot.com

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