By Tony Lightfoot
Huge jumps, incredible athleticism and endless stories - all combined to create a tournament of the ages that was LA Night Jam, presented by Tide Medical and supported by the Louisiana Office of Tourism.
Before the finals took place in the humid Louisiana night time there was plenty of drama that unfolded in the elimination rounds. Taylor Garcia, having comfortably qualified to the night final, pushed a bad situation on his last jump and paid the price - both physically and materially. He broke one of his expensive jump skis and took a huge rib shot to leave his participation in the finals in doubt. Lauren Morgan, suffering from food poisoning from the previous evening, broke a fin in the first elimination round and had to rely on a last ditch effort in the reparcharge round to advance in the last available spot in the final. Emile Ritter’s entry into the jump final came by way of a back-up jump as he tied with Will Roberts - both recording season’s best distances with 215 ft (65.4m)
As the massive crowd assembled at Trilakes for the night time finals they were entertained with world class slalom action with the Goode Skis Head-to-Head Challenge. In the Women’s event Regina Jaquess was at her steller best once again - easily defeating Karen Truelove (1 @ 38’off - 11.25m) with a 1 buoy count at 41’ off (10.25m). The Men’s event was settled with Stephen Neveu taking care of business with 4 @ 10.75m - ahead of Arron Davies’ 2 on the same pass.
The Women’s Jump was not short of excitement. Lauren Morgan made up for lost time and recorded a 172’ (52.3m) leap that held the lead over the next three athletes after her. However she was denied her 2nd straight professional win of the season by Hanna Straltova, who took the title on her second jump with a 173 (52.7m). Brittany Greenwood rounded off the podium positions in third with an impressive effort of 158’ (48.1m).
The Men’s Jump final was packed with drama from start to finish. Ritter opened the proceedings with a stout 209’ (63.6m) effort. Next up was Freddy Krueger whose 217’ (661m) flight really brought the crowd to their feet. Jack Critchley’s 212’ (64.7m) leap was then followed by a melee of activity on the dock - with his bindings being removed and quickly replaced by those of the next skier, Taylor Garcia. The Winter Garden native, on unfamiliar skis and still hurting from his crash, unleashed an impressive flight of 212 (64.5m) to cap off an herculean effort. Eventually it came down to the effort of Joel Poland and Ryan to determine the destiny of the title. Poland blasted by Krueger’s long-held lead with a 223 (67.9m) to set the mark for Dodd to go after for the win. That win was confirmed with his second attempt - producing a monstrous leap of 230’ (70.1m) to seal the deal and set off some fireworks.
A highly-successful return of this great event - thanks in no small part to Jay Bennett and his great staff. Already looking forward to the next edition of LA Night Jam