"It was a good, fair competition," Hendrickson said. "It was a hard one because we have a strong team."
Hendrickson, who won nine of 13 World Cup events for a World Cup title, is poised to lead the U.S. team to the Socchi Olympics to compete in the first games open to women's ski jumpers. Several of the teammates who are likely to join Hendrickson in Socchi, including Jessica Jerome and Lindsey Van, competed against her for the National Championship.
In the men's competition, Another Parkite and defending U.S. champion, Anders Johnson, improved on his first jump of 115 meters with a mark of 118.5. Three competitors later, USA Ski Jumping's Nick Fairall, from Andover, New Hampshire, took the mens' national championship in the last jump that morning, flying 131.5 meters.
"I've been struggling a little bit," Johnson said. "It was not the best today but I had fun."
Summer ski jumping, refined with aerodynamic suits and played out on a hill that reduces every figure around it to miniature, looks like the complete winter sport. Flexible plastic replaces snow. Jumpers fly the length of a football field before skidding onto a grass field. They sit back on their skis to stop, then get up and walk around shirtless like beachgoers encased in winter ski gear.
"Just the heat really," diverges from winter jumping, Anders said. "The plastic simulates snow really well."
Skiers are scored on distance. Judges can also award up to 20 points for style. Sunday's competition consisted of a trial round and two rounds of scored jumps.
The slope, calm and cool during round one, heated up as the top 30 jumpers in each event made the cut for the second round. The lineup of top athletes culminated with the jumper who set the top mark in the first round. The wind picked up. Several athletes came to the starting bar, then stepped back until officials deemed the track safe.
"The conditions were a lot more fair on the first jump," Johnson said. The windblown athletes refocused and recalled their practice runs, an essential discipline in a sport Hendrickson's teammate Abby Hughes calls "90 percent mental."
"I wasn't too worried about the wind," Fairall said. "I was just focused on having a good jump."
"We deal with it every day in training," Hendrickson added. "Training here gets a little repetitive," Hughes said. "The more jumps you take the more numb you start to feel."
Hendrickson jumped 125.5 meters in Round One. By the time she took to the bar, the Women's Round Two mark had leapt from 83.5 meters to defending U.S. champion Jessica Jerome's 111 meters. The slight Hendrickson rose to a spectacular height, dwarfed by the hill's Olympic logo. She descended to a point half a meter ahead of Jerome's mark.
"Technically they were pretty similar," Hendrickson said of her two jumps. She maintained form, she said, but the wind shaved distance from her second jump.
Distance accumulated exponentially in the men's competition. Taylor Fletcher landed a jump of 100.5 meters. Jean Charl Pretorius set a tough mark—122 meters—halfway through. Johnson, the defending champion, jumped fourth to last.
Canadian Mackenzie Boyd-Clowes stayed airborne one or two seconds longer than his challengers, sending a roar through the crowd as he landed an intimidating 139-meter flight. Fairall came next.
"My first jump was pretty aggressive. I had a little bit of nerves," Fairall said. Reflecting on that performance at the top of his second jump, he settled down. "I let it build off the takeoff."
Fairall soared to a 131.5-meter finish, second to Boyd-Clowes's performance in the overall standings, but good for the title of U.S. champion.
Fairall's winning run took less than 10 seconds, but the U.S. Team never rests from competition. National championships take place in the summer to accommodate Grand Prix races in Germany, Austria and Switzerland, and the looming winter season.
"We're laying a really solid foundation," said Fairall's USASJ teammate Bill Demong, who finished with a 105m run. "I feel like I'm training through these competitions a little bit."
Summer days in Park City start with practice runs, Fletcher said, then pile on two to four hours of endurance training and weights. "It's kind of nonstop for us," he added, "but we love it."
Johnson plans to take a month off to rehabilitate before leaving in September to compete again. "I'm taking it mellow here in Park City," he said.
Fairall harbors dreams as big as the large hill for USASJ. "The whole level of our team is rising," Fairall said. "Technically, I'm getting better and better. The goal is the Olympic team."
For U.S. Ski Jumping, Fairall and Hendrickson have reached the summer's high point, 7,130 feet above sea level.