A Positive Trend|
NH High School Jumpers in Eastern USSA Competitions,
by Don West, webmaster, and old worn-out ski jumper
For decades, those of us in the Eastern ski jumping community but living west of the Connecticut river were told about the 40 or 60 or 80 ski jumpers competing on the New Hampshire High School circuit. We were told about these jumpers, but we never saw any, because it seemed that none ever showed up at our Eastern sanctioned competitions. And we were led to believe that, when the New Hampshire State Championships came along, the winner was always a skier who had come up through the club system with six or eight or even ten years of jumping experience instead of the three or four years for a skier who began jumping as a freshman in high school.
However, over the last ten to twelve years, something seems to have changed. Suddenly we notice one, then two or three, and sometimes four or five new faces at Salisbury, faces of skiers who have come over from the New Hampshire high schools to ski in our meets and even to try to qualify for our Eastern Junior Olympic team. And this year, qualify they did, two of them.
Chris Rydel and Sam Shapiro
Chris Rydel, a senior at Concord High School, won the New Hampshire State High School Championship on a Friday evening and the next morning he was in Salisbury for the final weekend of JO qualifications. With him was Sam Shapiro, a Hanover High School junior, second in the State Meet. And no, these guys were not ringers -- both of these athletes were introduced to ski jumping as freshmen at their respective high schools.
Chris and Sam were not the first in recent memory to come over from New Hampshire High School jumping. In the winter of 2000, Tobin Whitman (below, right, in 2011 photo)
showed up at Storrs Hill in Labanon, wanting to get better at ski jumping.
Tobin is a supremely gifted athlete and his improvement was meteoric! In successive weeks he went from the Lebanon 30 meter hill to the 50, then to Salisbury's 65 and, one week later, to Harris Hill in Brattleboro, a K-90 meter ski jump. I expect never to see an athlete master the sport as fast as Tobin did. The next year, Tobin hooked up with Taylor Hoffman, another naturally talented ski jumper, and the two tried their best to qualify for the Salt Lake City Olympic team. Both fell a bit short, but I was quite a commitment. Along the way, Tobin set a hill record on the big hill at Gunstock which I believe still stands.
Tobin stopped his ski jumping for four years while he took advantage of a baseball scholarship at Gettysburg College in Pennsylvania, and during that time, I didn't notice any other New Hampshire high school jumpers moving up to the Eastern ranks until in 2007, Parker Haynes appeared on the scene. Parker jumped in Eastern meets for a few years and he may have been influential in 2008 in the appearance of four others on the Eastern scene: Joseph Merrow, Michael Larson, Duncan Sweny, David Remillard.
Parker Haynes, Joseph Merrow, Michael Larson, Duncan Sweny, David Remillard
The next year, 2009, those five returned to Salisbury with a sixth, Gavin Guay (right) and two of the gang, Duncan Sweny and Joseph Merrow (left) qualified for the Junior Olympic team that traveled all the way to Anchorage for competition. In 2010, those six evaporated but we had two new names, Chris Rydel and James Fisher on the result sheets.
Duncan Sweny and Joseph Merrow
In 2011, Rydel and Sam Shapiro enthusiastically joined in the Eastern training activities, even traveling with a team to the Midwest to ski K-70 meter hills in Minneapolis and Chicago, and both of them have been named to the 2011 Eastern Junior Olympic team to compete on the new 70 meter jump in Salisbury.
We can't prove that this feeding of New Hampshire high school jumpers into the Eastern system is new, but we haven't noticed it in earlier decades, and we are delighted!
One More Quick Story
Before I published this article, I checked its correctness with four people who have long time connections to New Hampshire high school jumping. One was Pete Langlois who has been a class A jumper, Eastern Elite team coach, and Jumping Committee Chairman. Pete sent back the following story of how his son Tad started ski jumping on his high school ski team.
"Tad was a slalom specialist on the Sunapee HS Ski Team when,
one week before the state championships, one of the four ski jumpers
became ineligable to compete at states. PJ Touhy, who lived down the
street from us, put his arm around Tad and said, "Boy, you're going to
learn to ski jump tonight". He did, finished third in the state meet
the next week and the rest is history."
And history it was. Tad skied in the World Junior Championships and the Lillehammer Olympics, and was our top international competitor for a season or two.