Locals cheer for hometown ski jumpers

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— Park City's Eric Camerota topped local favorites Alex and Davis Miller in the first-ever Fourth of July Ski Jumping Extravaganza at Howelsen Hill Tuesday.

But ski jumping fans in Steamboat Springs still had plenty to cheer.

Todd Wilson, Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club Nordic director, estimated that between 500 and 1,000 people came out to watch Steamboat's first summer ski jumping competitions on Howelsen Hill's recently finished plastic covered K-68 hill.

"I think we got our foot in the door with this event, and now we can start building a tradition," Wilson said.

Thirty jumpers, 20 Nordic and 10 gelande (in which jumpers use Alpine equipment), took part in Tuesday's Extravaganza. The events included a mass start Nordic combined, a target jump and gelande competitions. The entire U.S. Nordic combined team was in town for the event, along with many of the Winter Sports Club's top athletes.

"This event exceeded all of my expectations," U.S. Ski team coach Chris Gilbertson said. Gilbertson coached at the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club until this spring, when he accepted the position as the World Cup B coach for the U.S. Nordic Combined Team. "We wanted an event where people could see what summer jumping was all about. This event did that."

The day got rolling with the first half of the mass start Nordic combined event -- a 1-kilometer roller skiing sprint.

U.S. Ski team member Eric Camerota and hometown favorite Davis Miller set the tone by racing toe-to-toe down Lincoln Avenue in front of a crowd of spectators who were waiting for the start of the Fourth of July Parade.

Camerota came from be----hind in the final stretch of the rollerski race, just edging Miller at the finish line. Alex Miller placed third in that race.

That evening, during the ski jumping, Camerota held on for the victory. Alex Miller moved into second, and Davis Miller finished third. Alex Glueck placed fourth, Willy Graves was fifth and Skyler Keate came in sixth. Steamboat's Bryan Fletcher placed seventh, Brett Denney was eighth and Sam Chovan finished ninth.

In addition to the Nordic combined event, there also was a target jumping event in which athletes attempted to jump the closest to a pre-set mark without going past their goal. The field was cut in half after the first round, and then to five for the final round.

Steamboat's Denney won the event with an effort of 73.5 meters -- just off the mark of 75 meters. Alex Miller was second, Taylor Fletcher was third and Davis Miller came in fourth. Bryan Fletcher was fifth, Cliff Field was sixth and Jake Barker and Johnny Spillane tied for seventh.

"It's a great event because it lets the young guys compete with the older skiers," Gilbertson said. "We want these guys to fly far, but this event helps level the field."

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

or e-mail jrussell@steamboatpilot.com

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