It was a good year for competition at the Snowflake Junior Ski Jumping Tournament, held in Timber Coulee, Saturday, Jan. 6. The bitter cold didn’t stop the enthusiasm of competitors who braved the weather, with their families to attend. Temperatures peaked at 10 degrees, but the sun was shining and winds were light.
A complete transformation of the Westby junior facility was completed in 2016, opening up more opportunities for young athletes. The original jumps were built in the mid-1990s and the wooden support structures were replaced. The new landscape and construction provides jumpers with five hills for competition, 5, 10, 20, 40, and 65-meter jumping, served by a single tow rope and lighting.
The condition of the revitalized hills was excellent on Saturday, with plenty of manmade snow packed on the jumps. More than 60 jumpers registered for the competition. The hills were open for practice on Saturday morning from 9-11 a.m., with opening ceremonies at noon, before competition began.
The junior jump hosted skiers from Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan and Illinois. Competitors skiing on the 65-meter will be qualifying for a spot on the Junior National Team to compete at the 2018 Junior National Ski Jumping Competition. Nineteen competitors made their way down the 65-meter hill.
The Snowfake Junior Club was represented on the 65-meter hill by Augie Schini of La Crosse in the Under 20 Male. division. Schini, age 17 of La Crosse, represented the Westby Snowflake Club in the under 20 male division. Schini has been on skis since he was 16 months old, but ski jumping for only three years. He grew up downhill skiing and decided to challenge himself even more after attending the larger Westby Snowflake Ski Jump in 2015, with his father. In his free time Schini practices skiing at Mt. La Crosse and jumping in Timber Coulee. He works closely with his coach Matt Keuler, a former ski jumper and current coach for the Westby Snowflake Junior Ski Club.
Since he began ski jumping Schini said the hardest part was learning how to lean forward, while the best part is flying through the air. He said once he is airborne the thrill stretches from his head to his toes. His dream was to one day jump off the Snowflake 90-meter hill, a feat he will take on at the 95th Snowflake Ski Jump on Feb. 2 and 3.
Schini finished third in the Under 20 Male division with 173.5 points. Noah Pollard of the Blackhawk Ski Club won the event with 209.3 points, followed by Hunter Gibson of the Norge Ski Club with 206.6 points. Kailey Bickner won the Under 20 Female division with 113 points and Patrick Kruegel won the Master Class with 136 points.
Brothers, Landon Lee and Carter Lee of the Eau Claire Flying Eagles Ski Club, both returned to Westby this year and competed in the Under 16 Male division. Both improved their finishes with Landon finishing second with 145.1 points and Carter sixth with 118.8 points. Shane Kocher of the Blackhawk Ski Club won the U16 event with 163.1 points.
The Westby Snowflake Junior Ski Club was also represented by Grady Evenstad (U10 Male) and Elijah Jepsen (Open Male). Evenstad finished second in his division on the 10-meter hill and Jepsen finished second on the 20-meter hill.
Also on hand to help at the junior tournament were the 2018 Snowflake Ski & Golf Club Royalty, Queen Faith Gardner, and attendants, Alexis Mahan and Rebecca Buckles. They were accompanied by long time event advisors, Dan and Terri Kotek.
For more information about the Westby Snowflake Junior Ski Club log onto www.snowflakeskiclub.com.