When kids fly

Hitchens Brothers' series opens Wednesday

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Two cows were walking around Olympian Hall on Wednesday wearing ski-jumping boots and smiles.

Meg O'Connell, 9, and Lena Barker, 8, were about to start another season of the Hitchens Brothers' Wednesday Night Jump Series. They wanted to begin in style, so they borrowed one-piece dairy cow jumping suits from coach Gary Crawford.

People have heard the expression "When pigs fly," but cows?

"They are our favorite," O'Connell said. "But mine's a little big."

The Hitchens' Brothers Wednesday Night Jump Series is open to Alpine and Nordic ski jumpers ages 13 and younger -- exclusively -- and includes a pizza party before the event and a post-event awards ceremony.

In between, the children take turns flying off the K-18, K-25 or K-38 ski jumps, depending on their ages. And, like the registration fee, the thrills are free.

Nicholas Martin, 7, and Willy Gunn, 8, jumped on Alpine skis for the first time Wednesday night. The limited exposure made things a little nerve-racking, but that didn't stop them from putting their heads down and skis forward.

"My stomach went up, and then it went down," Gunn said.

"It's scary when you get over the jump," Martin said.

Imagine being a mother. Susana Field, who doubles as a parent and one of the organizers for the Hitchens Brothers' series, can handle watching her son Cliff go off the K-38 hill on Wednesday nights, but she refuses to watch him launch himself off anything larger.

Heidi Berend, whose son Ben Berend competes in the J5 (8- and 9-year-old) Nordic division, has warmed up to her son's interest in Nordic combined.

"When he decided to ski jump I was like, 'Um ... OK,'" she said. "I honestly didn't think he'd still be doing it."

Ben Berend said Nordic combined, which combines cross-country skiing and ski jumping, is so different from any other sport. It draws him in.

"When you jump you need strength in your legs," he said. "When you race, you need endurance. It takes you awhile to get used to (jumping). The first trip up the K-38 was in bad conditions and it was icy, and I was like, there was no way -- but it was fine."

On Wednesday, Berend won the K-18 Nordic competition easily, scoring 192.3 points and posting a 17-meter jump on the 18-meter hill. Keegan Weekslynn was second, and Nicholas Madden was third.

Madison Keeffe won the J5 girls Nordic competition on the K-18 hill. O'Connell was second and Barker, who is in her first year of jumping, was third.

Carolyn Walters won the J6 (7 and younger) Alpine competition. Kathleen O'Connell was second, and Kristen Kinzie was third. Tait Dixon, Koby Vargas and Tristan Arnis finished first, second and third, respectively, in the J6 boys Alpine competition.

More than 50 children turned out to compete in the Hitchens Brothers' series Wednesday, which is open to all youths -- locals and those from out of town.

The snow slowed down the in-runs for the competitors, Berend said. On the other hand, it did serve as something useful to play in and throw between jumps.

The competition started with the K-18 and shifted to the K-25 and K-38 hills. Emily Hannah was first, and Mary O'Connell was second in the J4 (10-11) Nordic division on the K-25 hill. Aleck Gantick placed first in the J4 boys competition, scoring 187.5 points and jumping 21 meters twice. Zeb Tipton was second, and Dylan Reed was third.

On the Alpine side, Danielle Brownell won the J4 girls competition. Kayla Voeltzel was second, and Shayna Kinzie was third. The J4 boys' title went to Mac Noel. Wesley Park was second, and Austin Johnson was third.

Mia Quick won the Alpine division in the J3 (12-13) girls competition on the K-38 hill. Sam Harrelson and Joe Madden finished first and second, respectively, in the boys' competition.

Cliff Field won the J3 Nordic event. Jake Barker was second, and Erik Lynch was third.

The next event in the Hitchens Brothers' Wednesday Night Jump Series is Jan. 19 at Howelsen Hill. Competitions begin at 6 p.m. Registration is between 4:45 and 5:30 p.m. and is mandatory each time.

-- To reach Melinda Mawdsley call 871-4208 or e-mail mmawdsley@steamboatpilot.com

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