Jones claims jumping title

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Clint Jones knew he needed something special Sunday morning if he wanted to beat defending champion Todd Lodwick in the final event of the 2006 U.S. Ski Jumping & Nordic Combined Championships.

Jones got what he needed on his final jump in the normal hill championships, which were held on Howelsen's HS100 jumping hill.

The hometown skier, and member of the U.S. Ski Team's special jumping squad, soared 101.5-meters down the hill breaking the hill record and setting the bar so high that Lodwick -- the only jumper left on the hill -- couldn't get past him.

"I'm used to finishing second to Todd, so I was pretty happy that it worked out," Jones said. "I heard all the distances from the younger guys that went before us, and they were all jumping around 90 or 95. I knew we were going have to go down to the bottom, and no matter how far I went, Todd was ready to jump just as far. I had to throw something down that would be tough for him to top."

The competition was the closest national championship dual in recent memory. After the first round, Lowick, who jumped 100 meters, and Jones, who jumped 99.5 meters, were tied with 136 points. Steamboat's Tommy Schwall was also in the hunt with 131.5 points, in third place.

The title came down to the final three jumpers.

Scwhall, the first to go in the second round, kept the pressure on by jumping 98 meters for 262.5 total points.

"You always want to finish higher," Schwall said. 'That's the thing about sports. But I had a great weekend. I jumped well on the big hill and stepped it up today. I gave it my best shot, and I'm happy. I didn't hold anything back."

But at the top of the hill, Jones had an answer for his teammate's long second-round jump. His effort brought the crowd to their feet and made for a dramatic ending.

Lodwick had one last chance but could fly only 100 meters to finish a slim three points behind Jones in the final standings.

"This is one of the funniest nationals I've ever had. This really is what it should be like -- long jumps, competitiveness and all three of us, Tommy, Clint and me, battling for the titles."

It was the first time a member of the U.S. Special Jumping team has won a national title since Alan Alborn claimed the K90 crown in 2003. It was Jones' second national title and the first since he won on the K114 hill in 2000. Lodwick's streak of national titles came to an end at nine, and it appears that he will end his career later this year with 17 titles to his name.

Steamboat Springs ski jumper Trevor Wert jumped 98 meters to win the Ragnar Cup, a long-standing jump competition for juniors that followed Sunday's jumping competiton.

Wert and teammate Davis Miller tied for sixth in the final results of Sunday's main event. Steamboat's Alex Miller finished 12th, Alex Glueck finished 13th, and Logan Gerber placed 20th.

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

or e-mail jrussell@steamboatpilot.com

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