LAKE PLACID, NY ??вЂќ Willy Graves of Putney, Vt., a Nordic combined skier, surprised himself and the field in winning the 50th renewal of the New Year’s Masters Ski Jump Saturday night at the MacKenzie-Intervale Ski Jumping Complex in Lake Placid.
Graves, a senior at National Sports Academy in this two-time Olympic village, flew 91.5 and 94.5 meters before a holiday crowd of 1,407. His total of 237 points defeated second place Kyle Kessler of Minneapolis, Minn. and Jim Denney of Duluth, Minn. Both had 234.5 points.
“This is unusual for me to be on the podium of a Super Tour event,” said Graves, who pocked $1,200 for the victory. “I’m shocked. For a Nordic combined skier (jumping and cross country skiing), it’s nice to beat the specialists. In the second round, I just cleared my mind and it all came together.”
Kessler sailed 91 and 95 meters, while Denney jumped 91.5 and 93 meters.
The competition also marked the conclusion of the three-meet Art Devlin Cup, which was captured by Anders Johnson of Park City, Utah. Johnson placed eighth and edged runner-up Tommy Schwall of Steamboat Springs, Colo., a 2002 Winter Olympian, by merely two points. Schwall took fourth in the Masters.
“It’s an honor to win the first Devlin Cup,” said Johnson. “Art Devlin was a pioneer in the sport. It’s unfortunate he passed away earlier in the year.
“I didn’t have my best day, but I won the 120 meter event yesterday and now I’ve won the first Devlin Cup.”
Johnson was third in a July meet and seventh in October. He cashed a bonus check for $1,000.
The 46-jumper field included seven women. Lindsey Van, also of Park City, dominated the women’s bracket. Starting from a higher gate than the men and creating more in-run speed, Van soared 98 and 96 meters for 255 points.
“The conditions are a little harder to see at night,” said Van. “But I’ve jumped here enough and could go from experience. Plus the conditions were great.”
Jessica Jerome of Park City took second after jumping 92 and 92.5 meters for 234 points. Alissa Johnson of Park City, third, went 89 and 88 meters and accumulated 214 points.
Among local competitors in the field was Evan Bliss of Lake Placid, fifth, with 232 points after jumping 91 and 93 meters.
Brian Welch of Scarborough, Maine, another National Sports Academy student who skied in the Salt Lake City Winter Games, was sixth.