Americans in third

Junior Olympics competition continues today

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Charlie Stoddard hopes his performance in the opening event of the Junior Olympic Championships is a sign of things to come.

"This is the biggest competition of the year," Stoddard said. "I jumped well, and I think that's a good sign."

Stoddard and another hometown favorite, Taylor Fletcher, led the Rocky Mountain Division to a third-place finish in Thursday's team event -- the first competition of the Chevrolet 2005 Ski Jumping and Nordic combined Junior Olympics. The events will continue today with a target jump and wrap up Saturday with the individual events.

"I'm pretty confident that I know what to do. I know if I have a good take-off, it's going to be good," Fletcher said. "I was hoping to get top three because of how well I jumped yesterday."

Fletcher, a Nordic combined skier, hit his first jump Thursday flying 70 meters down the slope of Howelsen Hill's new K-68 jump. His second effort wasn't quite as strong, but he still managed to jump 67.5 meters to place seventh among all the competitors and third for the Americans.

Taylor's jumps weren't bad, but he had hoped to better his effort of 74-meters in Wednesday's official training.

"I wanted to go 74 again today and keep the hill record, but the hill record's not everything," Fletcher said.

He said that Thursday's event was not about individual accomplishments, but about the team.

Fletcher's third (seventh overall) combined with Charlie Stoddard's sixth (10th overall), and Brett Denney's 16th (24th overall) helped the Rocky Mountain Division place third among the American teams with 636.3 points. The top three jumps out of four count toward the team total.

The Intermountain Division took the gold medal on the opening day with 688 points, and the Eastern Division's top-seeded team placed second with 655 points.

A Canadian team won the event, but though the jumpers from north of the border have been invited to compete, the final results only include American jumpers and teams.

Anders Johnson led the Intermountain team with jumps of 72 and 73.5 meters. Teammates Buck Bailey, Andrew Jerome and Josh Hanson all turned in solid showings to help the team from Utah earn the first gold medal of the week.

The Eastern Division's top team, which included Alex Madden, Andrew Bliss, Nicholas Fairall and Cooper Dodds, placed second with 655 points.

But the strongest performances in Thursday's events came from the quest class.

Canada's Mackenzie Boyd-Clowes posted the longest jumps of the day with back-to-back efforts of 75 meters.

Boyd-Clowes was one of three Canadian jumpers in the top four positions. Yuya Tanaka was third, and Wes Savill was fourth. The Canadians were also the top team with 727.7 points.

"The Canadians are great jumpers ... incredible," Stoddard said. "When you get out there and see these skiers that are better than you, it makes you want to train harder and ski faster."

The Canadians also topped the women's team results. Katie Willis, Tanaka Atsuko, Zoya Lynch and Nata De Leeuw combined to take the top overall spot.

The Canadians just edged Abby Hughes, Avery Ardovino, and Brittany Rhoads. That team was the top American squad.

Willis had the longest jumps of the day for the women at 65.5 and 67 meters.

The events will continue today with a Target elimination jump.

The event, which is not an official Junior Olympic competition, is slated to begin at 9 a.m.

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

or e-mail jrussell@steamboatpilot.com

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