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Van makes it 12 at national championships

Ski jumper Lindsey Van has no regrets about the air coming out of her season.

Van, who has been part of the jumping program at the National Sports Foundation since about 20 minutes after Utah Olympic Park opened in January 1993, returned home Sunday night after sweeping two more gold medals in Steamboat Springs, Colo., during the Nature Valley Ski Jumping Championships over the weekend. That gives her 12 national titles.

It was a pleasant end to a season in which she may have dropped from No. 2 in the women’s Continental Cup rankings to No. 3, but the 22-year-old returned after a slow start to some of the best jumping of her career. In the last nine Continental Cup meets, she won three and was a top-three performer in four other competitions; she captured the last meet of the season in Japan.

And now it’s time to catch her breath.

"I’m tired," she said.

She’ll find the energy somewhere to go alpine skiing during the next little bit, Van said, but for now she’s got a date with her couch.

"I’m gonna be on the couch, and just hanging out. I’ll probably ski a few times this week, but I’m tired," Van said.

With Parkite Jessica Jerome recovering from knee surgery, Van had little major competition for the two titles. High school student Avery Ardovino capped a breakthrough season by taking the first-round lead Saturday at Howelsen Hill with a huge jump of 113.5 meters; Van, meanwhile, was testing herself by jumping from the men’s start, seven gates lower, meaning she had less speed at takeoff; she went 108 meters.

As she headed back up the hill for her final jump, Coach Larry Stone said she should focus on getting the national championship, so Van should go back to the women’s start. She did – and had the longest jump of the round, 111.5 meters, while Ardovino and Alissa Johnson came in at less than 100 meters.

Result: Van for the gold medal with 211.7 points; Ardovino was silver medal winner at 189.2 and Johnson took the bronze at 181.8.

Sunday, in the normal hill championship at the 100-meter jump – on another mostly windless day, Van was the only athlete going past 90 meters (91 and then 92 meters), as she won by more than 40 points. Brenna Ellis was silver medalist with Ardovino capturing the bronze medal.

Van had been enjoying downtime in Park City, skiing and hanging out after returning from Japan. She figured she had jumped enough and could save a travel day by going to Steamboat at week’s end. However, 10 days without jumping began to gnaw at her, so she drove over at midweek, took her training jumps with the men, and felt confident enough to start with them.

In jumping, the women go from a higher start than the men; lighter than the guys, they usually need more speed to lay down a solid jump. Van began her career at Bear Hollow jumping with the guys simply because she was the only female, so jumping with the (ahem) non-females wasn’t an issue. She jumped with guys or she didn’t jump.

"There wasn’t another girl jumper for a long time, so it was fun to get back to jumping with the guys…although I know some of them didn’t like it," she said… from her couch.

"I don’t look at it as a big deal, but…well…I’d get ‘Oh, you jumped at the beginning of the round and conditions were better’ and stuff like that. Whatever. I mean, I was sixth, fourth and ninth one day in training with the guys. Larry and I wanted to see how I’d do, and then I jumped in the first round with them and was seventh [among 45 guys].

"But Avery had a great first jump and he didn’t want me to give up the gold medal, so he called to me, as I was going back up, and said I should go back to the women’s start and defend the title. It was fun," she said.

With the men’s jumping, three-time Olympian Bill Demong – a Park City resident since 2002 when the Nordic combined residency program was uprooted from Steamboat and moved to Park City – swept all three men’s titles. He arrived Friday night, took one training jump Saturday morning and easily won both the men’s large hill and normal hill jumping events plus the Nature Valley U.S. combined title competition.

Johnny Spillane – who grew up in Steamboat but also moved in ’02 "because it was what I needed to do if I were going to be ‘Best in the World’" – was silver medalist across the board with native Parkite Brett Camerota taking bronze in the large hill event and the combined.

For complete results from Steamboat: http://www.sswsc.org


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