Fly Girls training next group of elite jumpers |

Fly Girls training next group of elite jumpers

Local coach put the girls through gauntlet of exercises

Park City native and 2014 Olympic ski jumper Sarah Hendrickson, left, leads the Fly Girls program during a yoga session in the start house of the 120 Olympic Jump at the Utah Olympic Park. This years participants were Tess Arnone, Jillian Highfill, Rachael Haerter, Paige Jones, Hope Kruger, Sabina Sproch and Elise Loescher.
Photo courtesy of Alan Alborn

Many youth that participate in athletics try all kinds of sports.

From soccer to baseball to basketball, there are many traditional sports most Americans will attempt, hoping to develop an interest.

One sport that’s not as popular in places outside of Park City is women’s ski jumping.

“Finding athletes with a basic level of skill and a desire to refine the skill is very difficult, given our lack of venues for ski jumping around the USA,” said Alan Alborn, a coach for the Park City Nordic Ski Club.

Enter the Fly Girls, a program that trains young female athletes, ages 12-16, for the U.S. National Team. Albron coaches the group during the near month-long program that welcomes some of the nation’s budding ski jumping talent.

“Fly Girls brings these athletes together and creates the environment for them to really see if they want to take their skills to the next level,” Alborn said.

This year’s group consists of Tess Arnone, Jillian Highfill, Rachael Haerter, Paige Jones, Hope Kruger, Sabina Sproch and Elise Loescher. Three of them — Highfill, Haerter and Jones — reside in Park City, while the others were chosen from the program’s other divisions in the country.

One can be chosen for the program by going through the application process, in which an applicant is required to answer questions and write an essay about what ski jumping means to her. There are also physical requirements, such as being able to jump off a 60-meter hill.

“Fly Girls, in general, is really about camaraderie and building a team dynamic that we hope will move forward with this entire generation of jumpers,” said Laura Sankey, U.S. women’s ski jumping president.

The group first started in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, the last week of June, where it competed in a Fourth of July jumping competition later that week.

The girls then made their way to Park City, where — under the watchful eye of Alborn — they participated in a number of exercises, such as flexibility, nutrition, media training, goal setting, mental training, team building, cooking and even living together. The group also trained in a wind tunnel in Ogden to simulate flight.

Some activities were led by former Fly Girls athletes or some of the country’s marquee jumpers, such as Parkite Sarah Hendrickson. Alborn believes this year’s group has the potential to supplant Hendrickson and others as the nation’s top female jumpers.

“I am very excited about this year’s group,” Alborn said. “There are some young ladies with great character, confidence and courage that I see going very far in the sport, as well as being great individuals from their experience in this sport.”

While the talent is there, what separates this specific group of jumpers, Alborn said, is something he can’t teach. The girls have a passion for ski jumping, evident by them applying for the Fly Girls.

“With a stepping stone like Fly Girls, I really believe we can inspire these young women to get all that they can out of sport, and along the way, really become some great individuals who I hope someday tow the rope and give back to the sport and their next generations to come,” Alborn said.

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