Hometown favorites return to Howelsen

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Todd Lodwick will try to add to his collection of championship titles this week during the 2005 Chevrolet U.S. Ski Jumping and Nordic Combined Championships at Howelsen Hill.

Lodwick, who already has 10 national titles to his name, will return to his home hill along with fellow World Cup stars Bill Demong and Clint Jones.

All three are considered favorites in the men's division at the traditional end-of-season event for the American special jumping and Nordic combined teams.

Defending champion Lind--say Van and her teammate Jessica Jerome will visit the Yampa Valley in search of national titles in the women's events.

"It isn't a World Cup, and there isn't a lot of money up for grabs, but you always want to win at nationals," Lodwick said. "It's about pride and setting the standard for the rest of the team."

The veteran will join 50 men and six women at the first official training session Wednesday.

On Thursday the championships will open with competition on the K-114 hill. The first official jump will be used to seed the Nordic combined 7.5-kilometer cross-country race, which is scheduled to begin at 5 p.m. that evening at Brent Romick Rodeo Arena.

The trial round for the jumping will begin at 7 a.m. with the first official round taking place at 8 a.m. The second round is scheduled to take place at 9 a.m., followed by the Merrill Cup (a longest standing jump competition for the top finishers) at 10 a.m.

Kathi Meyer, the event's co-chairwoman, said some times might have to be changed based on weather conditions, but she expected the schedule to be fairly accurate.

"We are just keeping our fingers crossed that the weather will cooperate," Meyer said. "Right now, warm weather is our enemy."

On Friday, the jumpers will return to Howelsen to decide the average hill championship on the K-90 hill.

Once again, the trial round is scheduled for 7 a.m. The first official round is slated for 8 a.m., and the second is set for 9 a.m. The Ragnar Cup (a longest standing jump for juniors) will follow at 10 a.m.

Meyer said thanks to community support, lining up volunteers and judges has not been a problem.

"It is just such a great honor to host these events," Meyer said. "It's also a great chance for spectators to come out and see some of America's top athletes competing for national titles."

Returning champions include Van, who took the titles on the K-90 and K-114, and Lodwick who captured the Nordic combined, K-90 and K-114 titles in 2004.

With teammate Johnny Spillane and special jumper Alan Alborn sidelined with injuries the race for this year's titles should come down to Lodwick, Demong and Jones.

Lodwick is expecting his World Cup roommate, Demong, to push him the most.

"The smack talk has already started," Lodwick s aid. "We've got a great rivalry, and I'm expecting another great nationals."

Lodwick said he hopes some of the younger skiers step it up this week.

"I would love to have one of those young guys give us a run for our money," Lodwick said. "We would accept the challenge -- we need it right now."

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

or e-mail jrussell@steamboatpilot.com

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