What does 14-year-old Somer Schrock like best about ski jumping?

"Flying," said the star of the Itasca Ski and Outing Club from Coleraine, waiting for the ski jumping competition between Coleraine and Cloquet to begin Tuesday night.

A total of 40 kids ages 4 through 15 competed in the first round of the Northstar Cup at Cloquet's Pine Valley. Levels of experience were as varied as the colors of their form-fitting ski suits, ranging from 12-year-old Erika Blesener's two jumps total to Schrock's Junior Olympic ninth-place finish last year in Steamboat Springs, Colo.

"It's a good way to get our clubs to interact," said Schrock before the meet.

Cloquet's Nolan Ripp, 14, said he looks forward to the annual competition between the Itasca club and the Cloquet Ski Club.

"I like the fact that we get to jump against people," said Ripp, explaining that the Cloquet club doesn't go to many competitions. "I'm excited."

To the average bystander, the jumps look enormous, especially with the 40-meter jump lit up and emerging from the treetops at Pine Valley. Still, none of the kids waiting in the chalet was admitting to nerves before the competition, just anticipation. Perhaps it had something to do with a streak of daredevil that must be a prerequisite to jumping.

That might be part of it, admitted both Adam Blesener (jumping after only four weeks of practice) and Dominique Rossing of Cloquet. Rossing, 13, has been jumping for three years and was "feeling good" before competing on the 20- and 40-meter jumps.

Coach Sue Kavanagh of the Itasca Club explained that the Northstar Cup originally included Coleraine, Cloquet and Duluth, with a round in each city. However, when the Duluth group disbanded, the Cup changed accordingly.

"It's a really nice meet for the little ones," Kavanagh said. "For a lot of them, this is the only meet they travel to."

Jumpers competed Tuesday on the 10-meter, 20-meter and 40-meter jumps at Pine Valley in Cloquet for the first round of the Cup; they will jump again next Tuesday at Mt. Itasca. Scores from each round are combined to determine the winners. They will compete on the same size jumps next week, although Mt. Itasca actually has a 70-meter jump as well.

Jumping isn't the hard part, Ripp said.

Stopping is.

Watch for results in next week's Pine Journal. For jumpers who missed the Northstar Cup, a citywide Nordic skiing and ski jumping meet is set for March 6 in Cloquet. Anyone can compete. However, jumpers must be USSA members because of liability issues.

For more photos, check out the photo gallery attached to this story.