Steamboat's Brett Denney and Taylor Fletcher started Thursday night's Nordic combined cross-country race 57 seconds behind the leaders.
But by the time Denny reached the finish line in 15 minutes and 50 seconds, they had passed all the teams in front of them en route to the Nordic combined team title. Both skiers were part of a four-man American team that won the Nordic Team title in 2004.
"I had given it my all in the first two trying to catch Canada," said Denney, who skied the anchor leg for this year's two-man team. "The last lap was terribly painful. I definitely felt them pushing from behind, but I could hear my coaches yelling at me, so I gave it everything I had."
The finish thrilled the hometown fans who had come to Brent Romick Rodeo Arena to witness the Nordic team event, in which skiers alternated laps along the six-kilometer course.
Taylor and Denney were sixth after the jumping and third among the American teams.
"We did everything we needed to do," Fletcher said. "We kept good tempo for the entire race. ... We didn't kill ourselves on the first lap."
The plan worked well for the pair, who picked off the other teams in front of them and moved into a dual with the Canadians with three kilometers remaining in the race.
Fletcher caught the Canadians, who were competing in the guest class, and gave his teammate a slight advantage heading into the final lap.
"We didn't have our best day jumping, but we knew we had a chance to make it up in the cross country," Denney said.
Fletcher and Denney finished 10 seconds in front of the Canadian team of Wes Savill and Yuya Tanaka -- which was more of a moral victory than an actual win. The Canadian teams were invited to compete at the Junior Olympic Championships, but their results only count in the guest class. Only the American teams can win Junior Olympic titles.
Nick Hendrickson and Buck Bailey, of the Intermountain Division, finished second for the Americans, 1 minute, 31 seconds back. They were third overall.
Charlie Stoddard and Sam Chovan finished third for the Americans and were the fourth team overall.
In the women's Nordic combined event, the team of Avery Ardovino and Brittany Rhoads was the top American duo, and Atsuko Tanaka and Katie Willis topped the women's guest class.
The 2005 Chevrolet Ski Jumping and Nordic combined Junior Olympics presented by Barilla will continue today at 9 a.m. with a Target elimination event on the K-68 hill at Howelsen. The event is mostly for fun and will not award a national title. The final official Junior Olympic events will take place Saturday when the athletes compete for individual special jumping and Nordic combined titles.
--To reach John F. Russell call 871-4209
or e-mail email@example.com