Girls lead Intermountain Division at ski jumping and Nordic combined Junior Championships | ParkRecord.com

Girls lead Intermountain Division at ski jumping and Nordic combined Junior Championships

The Intermountain Division's ski jumping and Nordic combined junior national teams, composed entirely of Park City Ski and Snowboard athletes, had mixed results on their home turf at the 2019 USA Ski Jumping and Nordic Combined Junior Championships, which ran from Thursday, Feb. 28, through Saturday, March 4, in Park City.

For the IMD team, performances split along gender lines with the girls leading the way.

Intermountain's Rachael Haerter and Macey Olden took second and third respectively in the U16 girls individual competition, behind the Central Division's Adeline Swanson.

"We were really pleased to see them perform the way they did," said Alan Alborn, athletic director at USA Nordic and head coach for the PCSS Nordic teams, referring to Harter and Olden's results.

He said Haerter had been jumping well all season, but Olden's performance was a step up compared with the previous competitions.

Then, in the U20 individual competition, PCSS's Paige Jones and Samantha Macuga led the Intermountain Division, taking third and fourth respectively.

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The two age groups competed together in the girls team ski jumping event, where Jones and Macuga and Olden and Haerter formed two duos, with both teams placing highly.

Jones and Macuga took second behind the Central Division's Adeline Swanson and Anna Hoffman.

Tess Arnone and Annika Belshaw of Rocky Mountain division took third, with Olden and Haerter close behind in fourth.

Zach Selzman was the only male competitor from the Intermountain Division to finish in the top 10 in any event. He took 10th in the boys U16 individual competition, which was won by East Division's Tate Franz.

The IMD had qualified four male competitors for the championships, which were held at the Utah Olympic Park and Soldier Hollow, but only three were able to attend, leaving the home team without enough athletes to field a four-person team for the male team jumping competition. Also, no Intermountain Division competitors finished in the top 10 in any Nordic combined events.

Alborn, who speaks from experience as a former women's national team coach and longtime club coach, said that in a historically male-dominated sport, girls are starting to tip the scales in ski jumping – especially in Park City.

For many years, Alborn said the sport at the club level often saw many more boys than girls competing, but that the ratio has started to even out as female competitors have grown in prominence.

"We are seeing the result of what Lindsey Van, Sarah Hendrickson and Abby Ringquist did here in Utah," Alborn said. "They definitely inspired a lot of young ladies."

Those athletes were part of the push to make women's ski jumping an Olympic sport which came to fruition as it debuted at the 2014 Winter Games. While Alborn was the women's national team coach both that year and at the subsequent 2018 Winter Games, he's observed the effect the world competition and its prominent female stars have had on developing athletes while overseeing the Fly Girls summer jumping camp in Park City, and the Utah Olympic Park's youth ski jumping program.

"I would think there's waves of enthusiasm and we are still riding a wave from Sochi," Alborn said. "Since the 2014 women's ski jumping debut, I would say on average I probably see 10 percent more women a year," he said.

Of course, going forward he hopes to see participation go up across the board, but right now he said he's looking forward to seeing one of the Park City junior athletes stand atop the podium at next year's championships in Steamboat Springs, and maybe start a wave of their own.

"They are now coming to a level where they can compete on a national stage and are starting to do quite well," he said.

For a list of results, see page B6 of this edition or go to USANordic.org.