For helping the AK team reach new heights in ski jumping and Nordic combined, Zak Hammill is honored as coach of the year

It’s been a big year for Zak Hammill. He got married in a small ceremony a year ago and this weekend he and his wife are having the big reception they couldn’t have during the pandemic.

In between those banner days came a milestone last month when Hammill was named the development of US Ski and Snowboarding. coach of the year for ski jumping and Nordic combined.

“I’m not bragging, but we worked hard this year and I felt great in the kids’ season,” said Hammill. “But every time you get a prize it’s a bit of a surprise.”

Hammill, 30, was hired in 2013 to coach the Anchorage Nordic Ski Association ski jumping and Nordic combined team, which trains in Karl Eid ski jumps at the Hilltop ski area. He is from Iron Mountain, Mich., And is a former member of the US National Ski Jumping Team.

Shortly after moving to Alaska, Natasha Mattoon arrived from Wisconsin and became an assistant coach. Now she’s Natasha Hammill and she’s part of a coaching team that has helped the AK team reach new heights.

The club had 62 jumpers at the end of the 2020-21 season, Zak Hammill said – a big jump from his previous record of 48. And there is still room to grow, he said.

“We want to continue to let the community know that we have this program,” he said. “The more children you have, the more likely you are to produce top athletes.”

And the high level results are coming. In February, Carter Brubaker, 17, of the AK team became the first Alaskan to compete in the Nordic combined at the World Junior Championships, and last month he was named to the USST junior team for the third consecutive season.

At the National Junior Under-16 Championships, Team AK’s Skyler Amy and Ronen Woods won gold in the team sprint and Amy placed third in the Nordic combined. Gold medals by age group were also awarded to Julia Oswald at the U12 Western Regionals and Elias Oswald at the U14 Western Regionals.

Zak Hammill watches a jumper try out the binding on one of his skis at the 2018 Midnight Sun Ski Jump-a-thon. (Bob Hallinen / DNA Archives)

These results are exciting, said Hammill, but winning medals isn’t the most important part of the AK team.

“It’s more important to have fun, enjoy sports and develop courage,” he said. “As long as you have a good program in place, these athletes will thrive.”

By naming Hammill Development Coach of the Year, the US Ski Team congratulated him for “bringing jumping to the fore in Alaska.”

“He worked with his club to secure funds for the organization’s first winch to better prepare the springboard. He continued to modernize the show jumping facilities and help with the planning of a new clubhouse, ”USST said. “He also pushed the National Coaching Committee to form a task force to develop a more structured national training program for U16 athletes designed to reduce attrition in the age class and establish ski jumping. and the Nordic Combined as viable options for Alaskan skiers.

Hammill said fundraising was underway for the purchase of a winch cat, capable of preparing steep landing slopes, as well as new buildings with ski jumps.

Key to those efforts, he said, is the upcoming Midnight Sun Ski Jump-a-Thon, scheduled for Saturday, June 19. The jumps will be open from 1 p.m. to 1 a.m., and kids will collect donations for each jump they do before. spend the day flying through the air.

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