Vargas steals ski jumping throne at Howelsen
July 4, 2015
Steamboat Springs — Should Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club athlete Koby Vargas ever make the Olympics, it'll likely become his most memorable competition. But for now, the teenager can't argue with winning a summer ski jumping event in front of the hometown fans.
"It's nice to have the home crowd out here cheering for you," Vargas said. "Everyone is rooting for you to do well. It's amazing. It's one of my favorite feelings to win a home comp, for sure."
Vargas lived that dream Saturday when he won the Jumpin' and Jammin' Ski Jumping Competition at Howelsen Hill in Steamboat Springs, and he did it with a flair for the dramatic.
The competition was an elimination-style format. The event started with 34 ski jumpers, each of whom had one jump with the top 16 advancing to the second round. Those 16 climbed back to the top of HS75 for another jump, with the top eight advancing to the final round.
And Vargas, being one of the final jumpers in the final round, knew he had to make the most of his final attempt, considering what the jumpers before him had just done.
"When I got up there, I kind of zoned in and focused on what I needed to do," Vargas said. "I just went up there and relaxed, and it ended up working out for me."
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Sitting on the throne at the time — there was literally a chair for the leader to sit on during the competition — was the Park City, Utah, duo of Stephen Schumann and Tucker Hoefler. Schumann and Hoefler, both members of the U.S. Junior Nationals ski team, had each hit a distance of 74.5 meters on their final jumps — at that point an impressive and unlikely-to-be-beaten mark.
But Vargas, who has also competed for the Junior National Team, used this opportunity to grow his legend around Steamboat. Despite a rocky landing that nearly resulted in his disqualification, he hit a distance of 75 meters to overtake the Park City pair.
"Landing was a little rough," Vargas said. "I came down pretty hard. But that's just how it is at the bottom of the hill. It gets flat."
The mark stood, and the only things that separated Vargas from the title were ski jumping veterans Adam Loomis and Bryan Fletcher, of Steamboat. But neither could match the mark put up by Vargas, and the up-and-coming ski jumping star was able to claim the throne for himself.
"I've been competing in this event for about four or five years … this is my first year winning it," Vargas said. "It's definitely just as serious as any winter competition. It's really fun but it's also a good way to tell who is at what point in their training and stuff like that."
Fletcher, a current member of the U.S. Ski Team and former Olympian, didn't have a bad day, however, as he won the roller skiing race down Lincoln Avenue on Saturday, prior to the parade. The race was the second half to the Nordic combined event that started Friday.