PARK CITY, Utah — Two years after jumping his snowboard over a moving train, Trevor Jacob took another giant leap — to national snowboardcross champion.
Jacob passed Hagen Kearney on the final jump Saturday to claim the U.S. snowboardcross title at Canyons Resort. It was only the third career race for Jacob, who trains with the U.S. team but is not a member — yet.
“I think he has just as good a chance at qualifying for the Olympics as any of the guys who have been on the team for five, six years,” said Alex Deibold, who crashed in the quarterfinals Saturday and finished 10th. “It’s definitely making a lot of us work harder. People can come out of the woodwork at any time and that’s exactly what he did.”
Jacob, who grew up in Mammoth Lakes, Calif., is as fearless as they come. The 19-year-old’s train stunt in Tahoe earned him two nights in jail, and he was arrested last year in Ohio during a cross-country train-hopping expedition.
Considering all the crashes on the narrow Canyons course and Saturday’s soft conditions, racers were on edge throughout.
Crashes or bold passes eliminated the top men’s qualifiers — Nate Holland, Deibold and Seth Westcott — in Saturday’s early rounds.
In the finals, Jacob found himself behind Kearney through most of the race, and for a moment was content to take second.
Then the adrenaline kicked in.
“Somehow I kept gaining, then the time came to pass and I guess I passed,” Jacob said.
Kearney, a rookie on the U.S. team, thought he had the race won.
“Coming into that last turn I thought I definitely had it,” Kearney said. “But I made a mistake over-edging (and my board) stuck into the snow because it was so soft. I was able to correct it and thought I still had it, but that was enough to give it to Trevor.
“But it’s so fun. Trevor’s a star and one of my best friends. It’s amazing to share the podium with him.”
He then added, “That kid’s crazy.”
Jacob was the first to do a double-cork on a skateboard, and now travels with the Nitro Circus — an action-sports group performing stunts around the world.
He grew up riding motocross, frequently skydives and made the halfpipe his main sport until recently.
“I got bored,” Jacob said.
“This is so much fun, craziness, crashing, going for it. It’s a blast.”
He celebrated the win with a bear hug from his dad and a hard kick in the pants from his older brother — part of the bet they made the night before over sushi.
If that wasn’t enough, he did a backflip off the podium.
“He’s going to get named to the U.S. team,” Kearney predicted. “He wants to get into this. He’s one of the first generation to see that boardercross isn’t a judged event. It’s the first one to the bottom and it truly takes the best snowboarder out there.”
Alex Tuttle took third in the men’s race and Chelone Miller, younger brother of Olympic ski champion Bode Miller, was fourth.
Salt Lake City’s Faye Gulini led from start to finish in winning the U.S. women’s title.
Canada’s Michelle Brodeur was second and Simona Meiler of Switzerland third.
“I had a little pressure this morning,” said Gulini, who was second last year but won the national title as the top American finisher. “I was so nervous just because I felt like I had expectations of me.”
Getting out quickly made it look easy.
She also had high praise for Jacob.
“He’s getting better and better each race. It took me 10 races to get a top 10 and he’s really on it,” she said.
Deibold knew it when he saw Jacob show up in New Zealand for training camp last year.
“We did a time trial one day, not official but with the team, and he beat everybody — two-time Olympic gold medalists, six-time X Games gold medalists, (riders) with slews of World Cup podiums,” Deibold said. “That is a classic example of raw talent.