FOX RIVER GROVE, Illinois — Seventeen-year-old Sarah Hendrickson won her first U.S. National Ski Jumping title Saturday on the small hill (K70) at Norge Ski Club in Fox River Grove, just outside Chicago.
Hendrickson’s first jump was 68.5 meters, and she out-jumped the entire field with her second jump of 73 meters. Alissa Johnson took second, Jessica Jerome third and Abby Hughes fourth.
“This definitely is a confidence booster going into the World Cup season in December,” Hendrickson said. “I’ve been second in Nationals four different times now and it’s nice to finally get a win. I’m super happy.”
One of those second-places was in this year’s large hill event in July, which took place in Park City, Utah.
“I’ve been working on keeping my hips high while in the air, which allows you to build more height over the knoll and gain distance,” she said. “On the second jump (Saturday), I worked on that one specific thing and it helped.”
Hendrickson has been making strides on the Continental Cup in the past two years, sparked in part by a history-making finish at the 2010 Junior World Championships, where she became the first American to ever medal by winning a bronze.
Johnson had two solid jumps Saturday, landing her on the podium for the first time in six years, she said.
“I’ve been working on my in-run position a lot. That, plus the hard work in the gym are starting to pay off,” Johnson said. “My jumps in today’s competition were good, but I know I have more to show.”
Several hundred people came out during the sunny fall day to watch the jumping at Norge Ski Club, which is part of the U.S.’s Central Division for ski jumping. There are 14 clubs in Central (Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin), with each having at least one ski jump. Norge Ski Club was hosting a National Championship for only the second time in the club’s 107-year history.
“Everyone here knows so much about ski jumping and they are so supportive,” said Johnson, whose brother, Anders, won the men’s U.S. National title Saturday. “It feels like being in Europe.”
The Visa Team heads to Lake Placid, N.Y., next to compete as part of the Flaming Leaves Festival and ski jumping event on Oct. 8.