Parkite Rhoads takes top spot at U.S. Champs | ParkRecord.com

Parkite Rhoads takes top spot at U.S. Champs

Locals Ringquist, Hendrickson place second, fifth

By Griffin Adams
The Park Record

Parkite Will Rhoads stood atop the HS134 meter hill at Utah Olympic Park on Saturday morning as he prepared for his final jump of the 2018 U.S. Ski Jumping Championships.

The leader heading into the final round of jumps, Rhoads watched competitor after competitor battle the wind that forced multiple delays.

"The wind is something we deal with as ski jumpers almost every time we jump," Rhoads said.

He also saw his competition refuse to back down, as Casey Larson put the pressure on the Park City native by jumping 131.5 on his second jump.

Rhoads needed a 121.7-meter second jump in order to secure the title, nearly 10 meters less than his first jump of the day. With no time left to think or prepare, he locked in position, glided down the ramp, and soon enough, soared through the air. His mark read 123.5 meters when he landed, which was good enough to secure the large hill national title with 258 points.

"Honestly, when I landed I was not sure that I had won," Rhoads said. "My last jump was probably my best one of the weekend. But with changing wind and less in-run speed, I was not sure it was enough to pull it out. I was thinking that I placed second or third until I heard my name called as national champion for 2018; a pleasant surprise."

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The title was Rhoads' third-straight U.S. large hill title and the fourth overall title of his career. Larson finished in second place, while Kevin Bickner took bronze in the men's competition.

For the women, it was Nita Englund who was able to secure the gold medal with 207.5 points. She fended off a handful of competitors gunning for the top spot, including silver medalist Abby Ringquist, a Park City native, and third-place finisher Nina Lussi. Another Park City competitor Sarah Hendrickson finished in fifth place, scoring just four points fewer than the second-place winner.

For Rhoads, competing in Park City is always something he looks forward to.

"It is always a pleasure to compete at home here in Park City," Rhoads said. "[This week] is usually my only chance to compete at home in front of my friends and family, so every year I circle these events and try to show out at home. Winning three national championships at home has been amazing, something I honestly did not fully expect with so many members of the team performing so well."

At the Championships on Saturday morning, it was announced that Utah Olympic Park will play host to the U.S. Olympic Team Trials for ski jumping and Nordic combined for the upcoming Olympic Games in PyeongChang on Dec. 30 through Dec. 31. Though the Games are months away, Rhoads feels this victory on Saturday will aid him in his endeavor to qualify for the Olympics.

"It is nice to do well here with the Olympic Trials coming up in December," he said. "I have a lot of confidence here in Park City and can jump really well here. I think this is the best place for me to compete and I cannot wait for the trials."