Fletcher wins second straight Nordic combined national championship | SteamboatToday.com

Fletcher wins second straight Nordic combined national championship

Austin Colbert

— Bryan Fletcher knew he could celebrate. As he closed in on the finish line during Saturday's U.S. Nordic Combined Championships at the Soldier Hollow Ski Resort in Utah, he allowed himself to let up and give the crowd what it wanted.

"It was a little close there at the end," Fletcher said. "Coming up to the stadium it was a little bit of a sprint to make sure I had a comfortable distance, but then it was getting in a good celebration and pump for the crowd and for me to excitedly celebrate winning the race."

It was the second national championship in a row for Fletcher, 29, an Olympic Nordic combined athlete who grew up in Steamboat Springs before moving to Park City, Utah. He won the same event last October in Lake Placid, New York, and remains the only active U.S. Nordic combined athlete to have a national title to his name.

Hot on his trail Saturday was fellow U.S. Ski Team member Adam Loomis, 19, a Wisconsin native who spent two years training in Steamboat. Fletcher's cross country time of 20 minutes, 43 seconds was only fourth on Saturday, but he entered the race with a 26 second head start after winning the jumping competition. He held on to defeat Loomis by five seconds, with his younger brother, Taylor Fletcher, coming in third in the overall competition.

"It's meant to be a dogfight and it certainly was. Going into the race I knew I could come home with the victory if I paced it right," Fletcher said. "I was able to hold off Adam and Taylor who were charging and coming up behind me fast. I knew it was coming in hot. Going into the stadium on the last lap, I knew once I made it over the top of the hill that I had it in the bag."

Of the 15 athletes who finished the Nordic combined championships Saturday, the top six spots belonged to the six members of the U.S. Nordic combined team. With both Fletchers and Loomis on the podium, the next three spots belonged to Michael Ward, Jasper Good and Ben Berend, respectively. Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club athlete Grant Andrews finished eighth.

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"It's a big deal, and obviously to win a national championship is no easy feat, so everybody is out there putting together their best," Fletcher said. "Our team was very competitive. It's a testament that there's more depth to our team than we used to have. There are new faces and it's not just Taylor and me."

Fletcher said he considered the weekend's championships — which were part of Park City's 17th annual Springer Tournee — to be the unofficial start of the ski season. Next on the schedule is a trip to Germany and Austria in late August and early September for the Summer Grand Prix.

"This is good momentum going into the next season and especially going into our Summer Grand Prix competition," Fletcher said. "From here on out it's building for the winter and gearing up and trying to optimize for competition."