By: Colin Delaney, NYSEF Ski Jumping & Nordic Combined Coach

On the first week of March, Larry Stone and I traveled with a team of 9 Eastern athletes (NYSEF athletes on the trip were Brian Byrne, Beckett Ledger, and Matt White) to the Norge Ski Club in Fox River Grove, Illinois for Ski Jumping/Nordic Combined Junior National Championships. This year’s Junior National Championships were not your typical March ski jumping competition as I got the call from Central Division Coach Scott Smith a week before the competition began that we would be competing on the summer training surface on both the in-run and landing hill.

The inconsistent weather makes maintaining a ski jumping hill for high level of competition extremely difficult, so this decision has become more and more common for hills that are equipped for year-round jumping. Despite this change, our NYSEF athletes were able to turn out some great performances.

In the individual jumping, both Beckett Ledger and Matt White had silver medal performances, in the U20 and U16 Boys classes respectively.

Fortunately, we were still able to cross-country ski on snow at nearby alpine hill, Wilmot Mountain Resort. Beckett followed up his success on the jump hill in the morning with a great race in the afternoon to place 3rd in the U20 Boys Nordic Combined.

In the following day’s team competition, Beckett and Matt helped the Eastern team to a 3rd place finish in the jumping event. Matt also had the 3rd highest points total for all jumpers across all age classes on the day.

On the last day, we competed in an innovative, bracket-style, elimination jump tournament. The jumpers were given a handicap based on their competition jumps from the week, so the athletes with the best personal performance on the day could compete with the top athletes from the week.

Brian Byrne used this to his advantage, having his best jumps of the week to advance to the 4th of 6 rounds. Unfortunately, he was paired up with red hot Matt White in this round. Matt was able to overcome the handicap, eventually placing 3rd in the event.

As a division, the East was the only team to put an athlete on the podium in each event we entered. It was a great event from the coaches’ stand, and the athletes all had a great experience.