Ashley Caldwell defends aerials title |

Ashley Caldwell defends aerials title

U.S. aerialist Ashley Caldwell flips through the air at the U.S. Freestyle Championships in Steamboat Springs, Colorado.

The top high-flying U.S. aerialists took to Steamboat Resort’s world class aerial hill last Saturday to take their last jumps of the season at the 2016 USANA U.S. Freestyle Championships. Harrison Smith (Pittsford, New York) landed his first career national title while 2016 World Cup Champion Ashley Caldwell (Ashburn, Virginia) capped her season with her third career national title.

After jumping triples on the World Cup tour this season, Caldwell opted to compete doubles in qualifications and finals. She landed a clean lay full in finals and a full full with a score of 87.88 in the superfinal to take the win and defend her 2015 title.

"Mentally, doing doubles is tricky," said Caldwell. "It’s a catch-22. The jumps are easier, but they have to be perfect. In triples I know I can do it and the degree of difficulty will make up for any mistakes I make, but you can’t make mistakes doing doubles, especially when Kiley [McKinnon] does such sweet doubles. I was super impressed with the jumping today. I’m so excited that aerials has such a strong development team. We have a lot of young, determined, enthusiastic athletes."

Caldwell’s teammate Kiley McKinnon (Madison, Connecticut) wasn’t far behind in the scores. She went for a higher degree of difficulty on her doubles, a full full and a full, double full, but had a slight hand drag on the landing of her superfinal jump, scoring an 83.54 to land second. Elite Aerial Development Program (EADP) athlete Megan Nick (Shelburne, Vermont) performed a lay lay for a score of 76.85 and third place.

Smith struggled to put down clean jumps in training, but was able to stomp his full, full, full in the superfinal, scoring 117.85 and taking his first national title.

"My training wasn’t great, I didn’t land a single jump actually," said Smith. "I managed to put it down in contest though which is always sweet. I was super stoked to be out here in Steamboat — it was a blast. It was great to take the win. A bunch of us young guys had our first year of triples and it was a stellar year. We waited a long time to step up to the big jump and it was worth the wait."

Nik Seemann (Winter Park, Colorado), who competed with the same jump as Smith in the superfinal, posted a score of 106.11 to take second. EADP athlete Patrick O’Flynn (Penfield, New York) was third with a full full scoring 84.10.

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