This past weekend marked the first weekend of Continental Cup (COC) for the season and my first COC in almost 2 years! The COC circuit is one of the highest levels of Nordic combined competition in the world, and after this weekend it is easy to see why! This weekends competitions were all held in Steamboat Springs, Colorado and consisted each day of a ski jumping competition on the HS75 followed by a 10-kilometer cross country race, for three straight days of brutal competition.
On Friday, we had more scheduled jumps than the other days. This is because before any FIS event, there is a requirement for official training rounds as well as a provisional competition round, or PCR (the PCR is used if we are unable to complete one of the ski jumping competition rounds later in the weekend). My jumps on Friday were not as good as I know I am capable of. I had issues with the timing of my jump as well as the direction in which I used my power. These issues combined put me into 39th place after the ski jumping competition, 1:49 seconds back for the start of the race. A few of my teammates had a much better day on the hill, including Ben Loomis who jumped to 2nd place just 6 seconds back! The cross country side of the sport has always been my strong suit, so I was feeling confident going into the race still.
Friday’s race was a night race under the lights at Howelson Hill around a 2k loop. Friday’s race, along with the weekend’s races as well, had awesome crowds of spectators lining the hills and in the stadium making it a really fun environment to race in. As I said I started in 39th place. One of my Estonian buddies, Kail Piho, started right behind me and we were able to work together for most of the race. He and I traded off the lead for 4 of the 5 laps until I couldn't keep up with his killer pace. Throughout the entire race, we had coaches, friends, and wax-techs yelling our positions to us every lap. Each lap our rank progressively dropped… 39th, 37th, 33rd, 32nd. Going into the finishing corner, Jed Hinkley yelled as loud as he could “I think you’re 29th or 30th!!” Knowing that, I gave every ounce that I had to finish strong, not knowing whether I had met my goal and scored points, or been just behind. For about 30 minutes following the race, people were asking me how I had done. I kept saying “I think I was 30th”, to which people responded with pure stoke. 30th place in the Nordic combined world means that you score points, which are crucial for your overall ranking and qualification for other events. In the US Nordic combined world, a single COC point gets you a spot on the national team, a chance to compete at US Olympic trials, and a good chance of qualifying for the World Junior Championships, so not knowing if I had scored a point after the race was very stressful few minutes for me. It wasn’t until we were eating dinner and the results were uploaded. I had finished in 30th place and scored a point!
That set my expectations high for the next two days of racing. Knowing that I was able to score points on Friday meant that I knew I was able to do it for the next races as well. Saturday was another below average ski jumping competition for me as well. I didn’t nail the timing and I jumped forward instead of up. I jumped to 41st place, but still only 1:58 back. I had one of the worst races of my last few seasons, so I was only able to ski up to 33rd place. Knowing that I didn’t have the race I wanted meant that I knew I could be close to points on an off day, which is encouraging for the future.
For Sunday’s competition, I once again didn’t have the best jump, putting me in 38th place and again 1:56 seconds back. I jumped again near Kail Piho, who I had skied with on Friday and knew that I could keep up with on a good day. On the first couple laps, I felt good and knew that I was just a few places back from being in the points. Kail and I moved up quickly and were within striking distance of the group within the top-30. However, after 3 days straight of racing, I was completely gassed towards the end of the race. Frustratingly, I spent the last lap in 31st place, and was unable to bridge the gap into the top 30, finishing just 4.2 seconds back from scoring more points. I now can confidently say that 31st place is the worst in the world.
This weekend’s COCs gave me confidence and knowledge for the rest of the season. I am confident in my ability to score points if I have a good jump. I now know that I can be one of the top-20 fastest skiers in a COC, which is a level that I have never been at before. I also am aware of the tiny mistakes that I made both on the hill and on the course that kept me from being in the points. For the rest of the season, I will be damn sure that I ski over the top of the hills, instead of giving up half way over and sacrificing seconds every lap. But I did meet one of my big goals for the season, which was to score COC points. I left a lot of room for improvement (29 places to be exact), but having the stress of scoring points lifted off of my shoulders will help me to be more relaxed in future competitions which will only help me to jump and race better! Now I am home in Park City to train before US Olympic Team Trials on December 30th. Stay tuned!
Team USA's Results for the weekend (Friday, Saturday, Sunday):
Ben Loomis: 5th, 5th, 5th
Ben Berend: 18th, 24th, 18th
Jasper Good: 10th, 8th, 12th
Stephen Schumann: 16th, 15th, 20th
Grant Andrews: 36th, 30th, 27th
Tucker Hoefler: 42nd, DNS, 41st
Beckett Ledger: DNR, 40th, DNS
Aidan Ripp: DNS, 42nd, DNS
Bennett Gamber: DNS, DNS, 43rd
Jared Shumate: 30th, 33rd, 31st
Follow along as I post updates about training, traveling, competing, school, and life in general.