Fly Girls get ready to host the world
The Fly Girls ski jumping program, which trains young female athletes on their path to the U.S. National Team, had a robust roster of 12 members last season.
But, with the Junior World Championships coming to Utah in 2017, this year’s recently-named squad is smaller, featuring only seven members.
Coach Alan Alborn, a former Olympic ski jumper, said he picked a smaller group this year to give each athlete a higher quantity of jumps and more quality coaching.
“The plan is to prepare them for the Junior World Championships,” he said. “This specific group, I picked them because they’re the next athletes in line to make the championship team. We went from 12 to seven, the reason being the emphasis on the Junior World level. Some of the other girls were just a touch younger and not quite at that level yet.”
With the seven Fly Girls in Park City for training, Alborn hopes to get off to a quick start when the Springer Tournee, a summer ski jumping and Nordic combined event, returns to the Utah Olympic Park July 25-31.
“Any competition a ski jumper can be in is beneficial if they go into it thinking that way,” he said. “It’ll be an added bonus for them compared to their competitors in Europe. Granted, it’s usually 95 degrees, but the same principles apply athletically.”
Logan Sankey, who competed at the Junior World Championships in Romania last winter, said she’s excited to test herself at the upcoming UOP competitions.
“I think Springer Tournee is an awesome opportunity for all the American athletes and contenders to be in one place at the same time, which doesn’t happen very often,” she said. “It’s kind of the only time during the year that you can see how you stack up against everyone and how close you are to being at that next level.”
As summer training rolls into winter, Alborn said the Fly Girls will get ample training and competition opportunities on home soil as the Junior World Championships, which will be held Jan. 30 to Feb. 5, approach.
“Out of this summer’s Fly Girls program, I’m hoping to inspire that group to step up and make it through the qualifiers,” he said. “Dec. 3 will be the first qualifier in Steamboat Springs, [Colorado]. Then, on Dec. 29 I think, we’ll have the second of two here. Based on those two events, we’ll pick the team. [The UOP] is a good place to train and have the Fly Girls program focused. It couldn’t be any better, honestly.”
Cara Larson, a Fly Girls athlete from Chicago, said she’s excited to get to work on improving her distance and technique by working with top athletes and coaches.
“It’s incredible,” she said. “I come from a pretty small club, so to come here and get the opportunity to work with Alan and, this year, [Olympian] Sarah [Hendrickson], is really awesome. You have this whole community and it’s really fun to see it all.”
Sankey can feel the excitement and energy building as the Junior World Championships approach. She said she and her teammates want to work hard to ensure the U.S. has strong results at the hill they’re most familiar with.
“It would be awesome,” she said. “I’m so excited to have Worlds here. Usually, they’re all over in Europe and that puts us at a huge disadvantage. [European jumpers] don’t have to travel nearly as far or overcome jetlag or anything. Having it here is definitely a huge advantage for us. We’re hoping we can really show up on home turf and have one of the best showings our team has ever had.”
The annual Springer Tournee will be held July 25-31 at the Utah Olympic Park. In conjunction with the event, the U.S. Large Hill National Championships will be held July 29 and 30 at the park. Competitions run from 8-11:30 a.m. on Friday, July 29, and from 8 a.m. to noon on Saturday, July 30.
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It’s going to be at least another month before Summit County’s high school athletes have any chance of getting onto the field again.