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Hopkinton skier James McCluskey is in the High School Spotlight

This week in the High School Spotlight, it’s James McCluskey. James, a Hopkinton junior, excels in ski jumping. He took 2nd place overall in the Division IV ski jumping championships this year, and he had the longest jump. Impressive since he added more to his plate this season when he took on Nordic skiing for the first time as well as Alpine skiing, too.

When he’s off the slopes, however, James would prefer his cake without frosting and that House Stark outlast the Lanisters for the Iron Throne.

Concord Monitor: What made you want to add Nordic skiing to your plate?

James McCluskey: So I started ski jumping last year, and I had a lot of fun with it. Even that year I had a little interest in Nordic. A bunch of my friends did it. My sister did it when she was in high school, and I thought it would be just a good thing to add on to ski jumping.

The other reason I wanted to do both was that Nordic combined is a big sport in the Olympics that I found was very interesting. So I stated following Todd Lodwick a little bit and Billy Demong. It really ended up being something I was very interested in. It was something so I could start being competitive in Nordic combined.

CM: What did you learn from the Nordic and ski jumping seasons?

JM: I found out that both of the sports really went hand in hand with each other because both stressed strength in your body and your mind. I find that they both work really well together because in ski jumping you have to remain calm and you have to have good flow off the jump. And that’s the same thing with Nordic – where basically all of your movements have to flow really well together. So it’s a big combination of effort and flow of actually doing the physical part and stringing it together so it flows nicely.

CM: What kind of work and training do you have to put into ski jumping?

JM: For ski jumping in the preseason, we usually do a lot of imitations, which is basically imitating the movement you make off the jump and feeling out air form and stuff like that. The other thing we’ve recently started doing with our new coach is actually Thai chi and yoga. So you’re really in tune with your body, and you can recognize what your body is doing in the air and really have full control of that.

CM: Does having the longest jump in the Division IV championships give you confidence heading into next season?

JM: I think having the longest jump is kind of a confidence booster, but it’s kind of not because with the scoring system we use in high school, it’s just not the distance that matters, but also your style. Basically you have to go into every jump and land them. I dropped into second (overall in the championships) due to the fact that I fell on my third jump. I found the key importance to it is that you really need to stress style. And you really have to come down in a telly landing, and you really have to stay calm in the air. You have to keep your body nice and tight.

Even if you have the longest distance, there’s more to it than just going deep. So basically what I learned from that was you just really have to have the whole package in order to go out and win.

CM: Moment of truth: ski jumping or Nordic skiing?

JM: Ski jumping – hands down.

CM: What’s one thing about ski jumping that would surprise people?

JM: The fact that it’s a very friendly community. Not many people realize that even though it’s extremely competitive and everyone is competing for the top spot, that ever cares about everyone else and wants to see people do well. I know even in states when I had the long one, countless people came up to me and congratulated me from all the teams – Hanover, Plymouth, coaches were being really nice.

A key phrase everyone usually says is, before someone goes, “Have one.” It’s basically a shorter term for “have a good one.” And basically everybody else just wants everyone to have a good one.

CM: When you’re not on the slopes, where can we find you?

JM: I guess you could find me in front of my TV or just out exploring the woods. I like to go out and not really go on trails and just see what I can find. Other than that I’ll just sit around and watch Game of Thrones.

CM: What’s your favorite class?

JM: I’d definitely say my favorite class is AP Physics because it kind of brings everything along with ski jumping. I learned a lot about skiing, and accelerations and how skis work in general, I guess.

CM: Food?

JM: Favorite food . . . that’s a tough one. I’d say my favorite food is vanilla cake without any frosting on it.

CM: Song?

JM: Probably “Lord Only Knows” by Beck, which kind of not many people know about it, but every time it comes on, I jam out to it, and I love it.

CM: Movie?

JM: Probably Pirate Radio . . . or Cool Runnings.

CM: Do you have a shout-out for anyone?

JM: I’d just like to say thank you to Walter Malmquist of Hanover and Tom Dodds for helping me out at the Lebanon K50 this year. Also to Dan Meserve, our AD for finding us a great coach, and then Andrew Meyer for being a great coach. It’s really been a community effort and we had a lot of fun. I want to thank the team because the team definitely pushed me to my ability, and I really enjoyed that.

CM: Any parting words?

JM: Fly high and enjoy the ride!

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