Monday February 18, 2013

BRATTLEBORO -- Thousands came to Cedar Street over the weekend to witness some of the world’s best ski jumpers take flight during the Harris Hill Ski Jumping competition.

The 18th International Ski Federation (FIS) Cup and Pepsi Challenge were held Saturday, and a second FIS competition and Fred Harris Memorial Tournament were held on Sunday. The event also served as a stop on the U.S. American Ski Jumping tour.

Skiers were judged on speed, form, and distance. Competitors took two official jumps, and the results of each are combined to arrive at a points total.

Chris Lamb, of Andover (N.H.) Outing Club, took gold in both FIS Cup contests.

During Saturday’s jump, he scored 243.5 points, and traveled a distance of 317 feet on his best run. On Sunday, Lamb overcame his Saturday’s best, and sailed 322 feet to a smooth landing.

Lamb is the current record-holder hold for distance at the ski jump, when he soared 335 feet in 2010’s competition.

Saturday’s highlight was a showdown between Lamb and Yuya Yamada, of Japan. Yamada took silver, traveling a distance of 307 feet on his second run.

"The fans were really into that part of the competition," said Melissa Gullotti, communications director. "It was something very exciting to watch."

Hometown favorite, Spencer Knickerbocker, placed 21st in the first FIS Cup, to total 151.5 points as he traveled a distance of 241 feet on his best attempt.

"I’m hoping for some redemption today," said Knickerbocker on Sunday, as he prepared for the Fred Harris Memorial jump. Knickerbocker said he struggled with his balance and take-off, as he was blown a little off course during Saturday’s contest.

In the Pepsi Challenge men’s competition, Luke Daniels inched out a first place finish to score 158 points, sticking his landing at 251 feet. Matthew Doyle took second, flying the furthest of all four jumpers at 266 feet.

Nina Lussi took the crown in the Pepsi women’s competition to total 192 points, dominating with speed, while traveling a distance of 266 feet on her first jump.

Temperatures had dropped considerably Sunday, and while Knickerbocker’s spectators peppered in the crowd were noticeably wrapped in more layers, the 20-year-old welcomed the frigid temperatures.

"Warmer weather can mess with the track," he said as he waxed one of his skis. "But a lot of work was done on the hill Saturday night, so now it’s fast and icy."

A strong wind was a concern Sunday, but since the jump is surrounded by tall evergreens, most of the gusts were contained. "The weather was a surprise," said Gullotti.

Sunday kicked off with the Fred Harris Memorial Tournament.

In the men’s jump, Matthew Doyle finished in first place, totaling 194.5 points after traveling a distance of 285 feet. Daniels made another trip to the podium for silver, and Henry Kavanaugh-Beltman took bronze.

Emilee Anderson was crowned champion in the Fred Harris women’s contest, bulleting down the hill, to jump a distance of 282 feet. Lussi grabbed a silver, and Elyse Hoffman finished in third.

Sunday’s results for the 19th FIS Cup ended up much like Saturday’s, with Lamb on top as the undisputed king of the hill. Yamada grabbed his second silver, while Nicholas Fairall took home two bronze medals over the weekend.

Fairall totaled 236.5 points Saturday, and 221 points the following day. Knickerbocker placed 14th in Sunday’s FIS decision.

If Lamb gets a third win next year, his name will be inscribed into the coveted Fred Harris Cup.

"They have no fear," said Susan Shea, event volunteer. Shea attended the competition for the first time five years ago, and has been a volunteer for the past four. She is one of about 100 people who donate their time to make the event possible.

Catherine Hamilton, volunteer coordinator, expressed her sincere gratitude for all the time and effort put in by the volunteers, and stated that the event would not be possible without them.

Over the course of the weekend, patrons huddled around a bonfire at the base, or sat on hay bails to enjoy tasty grub served by area businesses like Anon’s Thai Cuisine, Rigani Wood-fired Pizza, and McNeil’s Brewery, and nonprofits like Kiwanis International.

"We had nice turnout," said Gullotti. Over 4000 people attended the town’s premier winter event.

David Aquino can be reached at daquino@reformer.com, or by calling 802-254-2311, ext. 164.