With the 2015/2016 season officially in the rearview, FasterSkier is excited to unveil its annual award winners for this past winter. Votes stem from the FS staff, scattered across the U.S. and Canada, and while not scientific, they are intended to reflect a broader sense of the season in review.
Bryan Fletcher, U.S. Nordic Combined A-team
In a season without any World Championships and without any podiums for U.S. Nordic Combined, the eldest man on the team — 29-year-old Bryan Fletcher — stood as the most consistent on the World Cup from December 2015 through March 2016.
Leading the team without the likes of Billy Demong (who retired last spring) and with just one other World Cup veteran on the A-team (younger brother Taylor Fletcher), Bryan finished the season 20th overall in the World Cup. Taylor ranked 31st overall.
Together, the two brothers placed sixth in a team sprint in late February in Val di Fiemme, Italy. Individually, Bryan had a season best of seventh in Seefeld, Austria, where he also placed ninth for his second-best result of 2015/2016.
Taylor, 25, tallied three Continental Cup podiums in December at home in Park City, Utah, including a victory, and spent much of the World Cup season hovering around the top 25.
“The team sprint was for sure Taylor’s and I’s highlight of the weekend,” Bryan wrote in an email after the Val di Fiemme World Cup. “It was nice to have some decent jumps and a solid race to get us into the fight. It’s the best team sprint result we have had as a duo and the best since Todd Lodwick and I were fourth in Ramsau in 2013 I believe. Honestly, while 6th is a solid result, Taylor and I were hoping for a little more …”
That desire for more was the running theme of the season, at least for Bryan. At the preceding World Cup in Kuopio, Finland, he placed 12th with the second-fastest time in the 10-kilometer skate race.
“I am happy to be 12th, but I was hoping for a little more,” he told USSA.
Overall, the team found positives within its performances. Up-and-coming athletes, like Ben Berend, posted competitive jumps.
“…The highlight was Ben Berend jumping to 10th,” Bryan wrote of the Val di Fiemme weekend. Berend went on to place 34th. “It was awesome to see him step up his game there and he hung tough in the race narrowly missing out on points in some incredibly hard conditions.”
In all, the 20-year-old Berend’s career best was 33rd, which he posted in February in Lahti, Finland.
Jasper Good, U.S. Nordic Combined C-Team
Jasper Good is a name you should get used to reading. Hailing from Steamboat Springs, Colo., Good, 19, led the U.S. nordic combined athletes at Junior World Championships this past February in Rasnov, Romania.
In his fourth trip to Junior Worlds, Good notched 11th and 12th in the individual competitions and sixth with teammates Jared Shumate, Stephen Schumann, and Ben Loomis in the 4 x 5 k team event.
“I wanted to put myself in the fight for a top 10 finish and I did that both days so to some degree I am happy with that,” Good wrote in an email afterward.
“Although I really wanted to break the top 10 I am happy as I was able to put two consistent competitions together,” he continued. “Both days were what I would call an accurate portrayal of my average level. I am happy that my average had me finishing in the top 15 on both days but a little disappointed I wasn’t able to have a slightly above average day to get me into the top 10.”
According to Good, sixth in the relay was a team best at junior worlds.
“I think the fact that our team event rank has been improving every year I have been on the team is a huge testament to the potential coming up in US Nordic Combined!” he wrote.
At the Park City Continental Cup, Good notched three top 20’s with a best result of 13th.
The 2015/2016 Nordic Combined World Cup season was a tough one in terms of lack of snow, especially for teams like the U.S. fighting for quota spots.
“We earned a wildcard in the first period with the results at Soldier Hollow,” U.S. Nordic Combined coach Dave Jarrett explained in January, after three of five World Cup weekends had been canceled. “Every race that we have had the ability to start five guys on the World Cup has been canceled so far. … We really needed to get some new names on the points scoring list that we haven’t had before.”