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Dana Sprague/Special to The Commons

Spencer Knickerbocker had a good weekend on Harris Hill, taking first place in the Pepsi Challenge and second place in the Open Class of the Fred Harris Memorial Tournament.


Knickerbocker leads U.S. jumpers at Harris Hill

Brattleboro native finishes first in Pepsi Challenge, second in Open Class of Harris Memorial

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BRATTLEBORO—The 93rd Harris Hill ski jumping competition had plenty of snow. In fact, it had too much snow.

A Saturday night storm left about 5 inches of snow, and volunteers on Sunday morning had to scramble to clear the hill of the new-fallen fluff. A power outage caused by a fallen tree on Riverside Drive also threw organizers a curve.

Add gusty winds and bitter cold, and it was a tough day for spectators and competitors alike for Sunday’s Fred Harris Memorial Tournament.

But the show went on, and to the delight of the local spectators, the hometown boy did good.

Brattleboro native Spencer Knickerbocker has been ski jumping for 12 years but cut back on his jumping schedule this season to concentrate on Nordic combined events, which consist of both ski jumping and cross-country skiing.

But it’s hard to pass up a chance to jump at Harris Hill — especially for Knickerbocker, who was chosen as the first jumper to go off the rebuilt 90-meter jump in 2009.

Going into Saturday morning’s Pepsi Challenge open class event for U.S. jumpers, Knickerbocker, who now lives in Norwich, said his goal was just to come have some fun.

He did better than that, though — he won the event for the second time. His first Pepsi Challenge win came in 2012.

Knickerbocker was tops in the field of five American jumpers. His first jump was 86.5 meters, and his second was 93 meters.

Cooper Dodds, 24, a native of Hanover, N.H., was second. His best jump was his first, at 88.5 meters.

Andrew Urluab was third. The 13-year-old from Wisconsin joined Knickerbocker and Dodds as the only jumpers to clear 80 meters in the event. Urluab’s first jump was his best at 81.5 meters.

Knickerbocker followed that up with a second-place finish in the open division of the Harris Memorial Tournament on Sunday. He turned in jumps of 81 and 88.5 meters.

Chris Lamb, 25, of the Andover (N.H.) Outing Club, won his third Harris Memorial title by taking first in the open division. Despite a third title, he did not get to join the elite list of jumpers that got to retire the Winged Trophy.

He didn’t get off to a good start on Saturday, finishing 17th out of the 17 jumpers in the FIS Cup event.

In the open division of the Harris Tournament, Lamb finished first with jumps of 89 and 96 meters, but the criteria for retirement of the trophy is three wins in the top division of the tournament.

Only four men have retired the Winged Ski trophy — Torger Tokle of Norway (1942), Art Devlin of Lake Placid, N.Y. (1954 and 1958), Brattleboro’s Hugh Barber (1974), and Vladimir Glyvka of Ukraine (2000).

Lamb previously won the 2010 and 2013 Harris Hill competitions and still holds the hill record for the longest jump that he set in 2010, 102 meters.

Saturday afternoon’s FIS Cup event was won by Ziga Mandl, 25, of Slovenia. He had the longest jump of the day at 96 meters.

Kevin Bickner, 18, of the Norge Ski Club of Fox River Grove, Ill., was second. The best jump for Bickner, a member of the U.S. Ski Jumping team, was 93.5 meters.

Ernest Prislic, 21, of Slovenia was third; his best jump was 92 meters.

A second straight year of Slovenian domination in Sunday’s FIS event was foiled by Sameta Karta of Turkey. Mandl came in second and Prislic was third. Mandl had the longest jump on Sunday at 100 meters.

The weekend drew jumpers from seven counties other than the United States: Canada, Great Britain, Italy, Turkey, Slovenia, Finland, and Norway.

That’s the greatest number of countries ever to be represented at Harris Hill, according to event spokeswoman Melissa Gullotti.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #293 (Wednesday, February 18, 2015). This story appeared on page A1.

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