Steamboat Springs On Wednesday afternoon, Steamboat Springs' Johnny Spillane let the pressures of a long World Cup season melt away in the gentle, rolling waters of the Yampa River.
"It was warm and sunny, I caught some big fish, and it's good to be home," Spillane said.
The Steamboat native wrapped up the season in Park City, Utah, where he won a national normal hill title on the HS 100 jump at the 2008 Backcountry.com U.S. Ski Jumping Championship on Sunday.
"It was a nice way to finish the year," Spillane said. "It's always nice to end things on a high note."
Bill Demong, Spillane's teammate on the U.S. Nordic Combined team, finished second, and special jumper Anders Johnson of Park City placed third. Spillane and Johnson were tied after the first jump, and all three jumpers were separated by a margin of 2 1/2 points headed into the second round.
"It was a hard competition," Spillane said. "It was a good challenge, and it was nice to have a decent level of jumping at our national championships."
For the first time in several years, all of the titles up for grabs at the event went to different athletes. In 2007, Demong swept all three events. In 2006, Todd Lodwick took two out of three, and Lodwick swept the championships in 2005.
This time around, Demong walked away only with the Nordic combined title that was decided late Saturday afternoon.
Demong passed Spillane in the final 500 meters of the 7.5-kilometer Nordic combined race to capture the title. Spillane led Demong for most of the race, but at the end, Demong broke away and streaked toward the finish. Spillane finished 28 seconds later, and Park City's Eric Camerota came in third. Steamboat's Taylor Fletcher was fifth.
Other Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club athletes picking up top finishes included Davis Miller in seventh, Cliff Field in ninth, and Brett Denney in 12th.
Demong "went by me, and I just couldn't keep up," Spillane said. "I pulled him most of the way, but I'm not complaining. He pulled me around a few of the World Cup races this season."
Earlier that day, Johnson collected the large-hill title by edging Spillane, who finished second, in the final point tally. New Hampshire skier Nick Alexander was third and Demong placed fourth on the HS 134.
Miller placed 11th, Field was 20th, Fletcher was 21st, Logan Oxford was 27th, and Denney placed 29th.
"It was a good weekend for our team," said Todd Wilson, Winter Sports Club Nordic director. "It was an outstanding Nordic combined race for Taylor, and all of our young athletes skied well."
The women's large-hill title went to Park City's Jessica Jerome, who beat out teammates Sarah Hendrickson and Abby Hughes.
Jerome also pocketed the normal-hill title in another event that was dominated by the Park City women. Brenna Ellis was second, and Hughes finished third.
Spillane said the Nordic combined team will have a couple of weeks off before heading to Vancouver, April 4 to 12, to get acquainted with the 2010 Olympic venue.
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