PARK CITY The fine folks at Olympic headquarters may not think she belongs in Vancouver in 2010, but Park City's Jessica Jerome showed she can compete with anyone even the boys when it comes to ski jumping.
Jerome, a 20-year-old veteran of the ski jumping team, flew to a pair of the best jumps of the day and easily won the women's national championship on the K120 hill at the Utah Olympic Park.
"I knew I was capable of it," Jerome said after soaring to jumps of 119.5 and 112.5 meters under nearly perfect conditions. "It just worked for me."
Unlike the male ski jumpers, the women are not included in the Olympic competitions. Despite that, Jerome has dedicated herself to the sport and has become one of the best in the world.
Saturday, under mostly sunny skies and with virtually no wind, Jerome sailed to a mark of 119.5 on her first jump and followed that up with a 112.5 mark. After technical scoring was factored, her total score of 205.6 was far ahead of Sarah Hendrickson's 171.8. Abby Hughes was third at 169.2.
As impressive as Jerome's win was, Hendrickson was equally amazing she is, after all, just 13.
The pint-size jumper who weighs all of 70 pounds, according to the public address announcer had nearly flawless form as she thrilled the crowd with leaps of 102 and 109 meters.
"I like jumping with the older girls," Hendrickson said. "They help me a lot. It's kind of a goal for me. You look up to them and then, all of a sudden, you're there."
Joining Jerome on top of the winner's podium was Anders Johnson. The 18-year-old son of a ski jumper was a member of the 2006 Olympic team. He recorded jumps of 120.0 and 124.5 meters for a total score of 236.1.
"I was a little nervous," he said, referring to the windy conditions on Friday that created problems for many jumpers. He was solid on his trial run and "once I got that, I did it like a normal, good ski jump."
Johnny Spillane placed second with jumps of 117 and 124.5, while Nick Alexander was third, jumping 117.0 and 123.0.
Bill Demong, had the longest jump of the day at 125.5 and used that to claim another national title in the Nordic combined.
Demong, who has lived and trained in Park City for several years, overcame a 23-second delay at the start of his 7.5K cross country ski race to win the title. Spillane, based on his higher scores in the jump, had the head start but could not hold off Demong.
After making up the gap on the first of three 2.5K laps, Demong skied with Spillane for a lap, then turned on the jets to cruise to a 28-second victory.The competition continues today, with women and men jumping on the K90 hill, beginning at 8:30 a.m.