SOLDIER HOLLOW, Utah – The U.S. Ski Team's Bill Demong (Vermontville, NY) passed teammate Johnny Spillane a kilometer from the finish to win the 2008 backcountry.com U.S. Nordic Combined Championships in a sunset race at the Soldier Hollow Olympic venue. Jessica Jerome (Park City, UT) won an exhibition women's Nordic combined event.
Demong had to overcome a 23 second deficit at the start behind Spillane, who led after the morning jump on the HS134 (134 meter) hill at the Utah Olympic Park.
“I'm happy to defend my title and to carry the level of the World Cup back to the Championships,” said Demong. “A part of me, though, would have loved to have seen Johnny win. He's a good friend.”
Demong took one of three 2.5K laps to come up behind Spillane and skied with him most of the race. He finally put on the gas on the final lap to take the win by 28 seconds.
One of the challenges for Demong has been the return from a season of near sea level competition on the World Cup to the high altitudes, around 5,700 feet above sea level at Soldier Hollow.
“I felt like superman for the first two k's, but then it took me another two to get my body back,” said Demong. “But I felt good on the final lap and was able to breakaway. And when you go, you have to go and keep going.”
After a long season on the World Cup, where Demong ended up a record third, it was good to get back home. “I'm really impressed with the quality of the field here,” he said. “It's definitely a higher level this year and we've seen some great results, like Taylor Fletcher [coming in fifth].”
Jerome, a student at Salt Lake City's Westminster College, took a huge lead from the jump Saturday morning and held off a hard-charging 13-year-old Sarah Hendrickson (Park City, UT). Jerome's 1:18 lead was cut to only 38 seconds.
The exhibition marked the first time a women's division was held at U.S. Championships. Nearly all of the top women jumpers took part, although few had extensive cross country ski racing experience.
“It was terrible,” laughed Jerome, whose boyfriend is U.S. Cross Country Ski Team sprint star Andy Newell. “I talked to Andy last night and he told me to ski easier on the first lap. Well, I didn't do that. I was hurting so much I had to talk myself through it.
Most of the veterans pointed to the young Hendrickson as the most experienced. Hendrickson, “Everyone told me to pace myself. But that didn't work so well,” she laughed. What was the toughest part of the course? “That hill,” she said pointing, “and that hill, and that hill.”
The 2008 backcountry.com U.S. Ski Jumping Championships continue Sunday with men's and women's championships on the normal hill at the Utah Olympic Park.
2008 backcountry.com U.S. Nordic Combined Championships
Soldier Hollow, UT – March 15, 2008
Nordic combined sprint
1. Bill Demong, Vermontville, NY, :22:17
2. Johnny Spillane, Steamboat Springs, CO, +:28
3. Eric Camerota, Park City, UT, +1:16
4. Brett Camerota, Park City, UT, +1:26
5. Taylor Fletcher, Steamboat Springs, UT, +2:02
Women 5K (exhibition)
1. Jessica Jerome, Park City, UT, :24:05
2. Sarah Hendrickson, Park City, UT, +:38
3. Zoya Lynch, Canada, +1:58
4. Alissa Johnson, Park City, UT, +3:46
5. Avery Ardovino, Park City, UT, +3.50