Flying high

Lake Placid 12-year-old climbing the ranks in youth ski jumping

Tate Frantz, a 12-year-old from Lake Placid, stands under the 120-meter ski jump at the Olympic Jumping Complex in Lake Placid. (Enterprise photo — Justin A. Levine)

LAKE PLACID — When most people see the big ski jumps in Lake Placid, their natural reaction is something along the lines of “No way.” But a local 12-year-old has the opposite feeling about launching himself through the air, and his training and dedication have turned into podium spots at the highest levels of the sport.

Tate Frantz, a seventh-grader in Lake Placid, was in Anchorage, Alaska, last month to compete in the Junior National Championships in the under-16 category, jumping against kids considerably older than himself. And when the results were tallied, Frantz found himself in a pretty surprising spot.

“I was the youngest age you were able to compete,” Frantz said while riding the chairlift to the top of the jumps in Lake Placid last week. “My first jump was OK and then my second one I went 70.5-meters and set a hill record and won Junior Nationals for under-16.

“It’s pretty insane.”

Frantz’s first jump was 64 meters, on par with the other top five or six jumpers. But his second jump was a monster, taking him 70.5 meters down the hill and putting him at least four meters farther down the hill than any of the other competitors in his age group.

Lake Placid 12-year-old Tate Frantz stands atop the podium after capturing the U-16 national championship in Alaska last month. Also pictured are Erik Belshaw, left, and Canden Wilkinson of the Rocky Mountain Division. (Photo provided)

Ski jumping is a small world, and Frantz said it was good to get together with young athletes who share the same passion.

“I compete with those kids two to three times a year, so it was cool to see them and hang out with them. And to beat kids way older than I am,” he said.

Frantz has been jumping since he was about 9, after watching his older brother Kai try out the sport. The elder Frantz boy is now a standout on the Lake Placid High School nordic ski team, and was part of a three-member team that captured the Blue Bombers’ fourth-straight NYSPHSAA state championship last month. Although Tate likes to cross-country ski, he said that once he hit the hill, he was hooked.

“I just loved it, I had to keep coming back,” he laughed. “The speed, the adrenaline, the flying through the air for seconds at a time. It’s pretty awesome.”

Frantz said he likes to nordic ski, mountain bike and run — “anything that’s fun” — when he’s not training for ski jumping. But those other activities don’t give him the charge he gets from hurtling down a giant slide and flying roughly 50 to 70 meters. Although mountain biking is close.

Tate Frantz flies through the air after launching off a ski jump in Anchorage, Alaska last month on his way to a hill record and national championship. (Provided photo — Colin Delaney)

“Flying through the woods on a bike is pretty awesome; nordic skiing not as much,” he said. “I like the thrill of endurance and just kind of feeling like your lungs are just dead after a race.”

Colin Delaney, a Lake Placid native who jumped and competed in nordic combined for almost two decades, is now coaching Frantz and other young athletes. Delaney said Frantz’s enthusiasm and boldness help set him apart.

“I think it’s a little bit of a sense of daring, a little bit of an adrenaline factor,” Delaney said. “And not being afraid to look at the bottom of the hill and say ‘That’s where I’m going to land.’

“And a sense of natural athleticism.”

Delaney said ski jumping is akin to golf in terms of athletes needing to perfect a seemingly simple motion. But the good jumpers, just like golfers, develop a consistency that elevates them to higher levels.

“It’s a very technical sport,” Delaney said. “It’s kind of a small, simple motion, but you have to repeat it again and again and be able to execute it with the right timing.

“It’s a lot of physical training — flexibility, agility, strength — but then a lot of time on the hill, also.”

While the seventh grader shows a youthful, unbridled enthusiasm for jumping, Frantz is also mature enough to contemplate his future.

“I definitely hope to aim for the 2026 Olympics,” he said. “I’ll be 20, so that’d be pretty awesome.

“Whatever Olympics I can get.”

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