VAIL, Colorado " Upon further review, kayaker Eric Jackson is indeed mortal.
Buena Vista's Dustin Urban ended Jackson's reign on Gore Creek Saturday at the Teva Mountain Games' kayak freestyle final with a stunning last run worth 178 points. Jackson had won three-straight titles in freestyle at the Mountain Games before Urban threw it down Saturday.
It was still a good day, though, for the Jackson family as Emily, 18, won the women's competition for the fourth straight year ahead of Rachel Gordon and Tanya Faux. For good measure, Emily's fiance, Nick Troutman, took bronze on the men's side.
"It's awesome," Urban said. "I think I won this in '02 and '03, and E.J. (Jackson)came back and had it for a couple of years. So it feels awesome. It was a huge finals. People stepped it up. I am totally thrilled to have been able to outdo all those amazing paddlers."
"It's gotten harder every year, so it definitely feels good to stay on top," Jackson said. "It's been really hard. I just have to try to keep it up."
'What E.J. lives for'
The final started with a familiar feel as the top-five men's paddlers worked their way through three 1-minute runs in the hole trying to post their best score. Eric Jackson was atop the leaderboard after the first round with a 115-point run, and appeared to be on his way to a fourth title after posting a 158 in his second go-round.
He got huge air on his opening loop and started stringing together loop- 180s and 360s. Jackson finished his run emphatically with two flips and seemed to be in good position.
Urban had other ideas. The Coloradan had a nearly flawless final run, never leaving the hole and ticking off his moves like he was on a casual stroll through a supermarket, crossing off items from his grocery list.
Urban started with an air wheel, got huge air on his flips and linked together 360-loops in both directions, and finished with a McNasty and another monster loop.
"I pretty much checked it all off on my last ride," Urban said. "Toward the end of the ride, it tends to be improvisation. I guess (the judges) gave me a combo at the end that was probably worth 48 points.
"I came out of the ride and I knew I'd gone off. I didn't know what the point value would be. I came into the eddy and Nick told me he had me at 170 points in his own calculation. At that point, I realized I probably had it or had a shot at it."
But with Jackson having one more run, nothing was in the bag for Urban.
Highlighted by two 180-loops and a phonyx monkey, Jackson showed some flash, but only got 85 points, and it was Urban's day.
"It's definitely Dustin's day on that last ride. That was an awesome ride," Jackson said. "He didn't miss a trick. It wasn't my day on my first ride. My second ride, I was starting to feel it. My third ride, I was just going for broke and I didn't pull it out. I never was really 100 percent in the groove. It's OK, though. Dustin had an awesome ride."
"On (Jackson's) last ride, I was a little nervous because Stephen Wright (fourth place) was saying to me, 'This is what E.J. lives for.' So I was definitely watching closely, but it looked like he was rushing it a little bit," Urban said. "I definitely don't root against anyone. What was so cool about today was that everyone rode the best they could."
For Emily Jackson, the Mountain Games are getting to be old hat, a nice thing for the 18-year-old who's been winning here since she was 15.
By her high standards, she felt her winning run of 55 points wasn't her best, but she was again on top of the podium.
"My score in the finals this year wasn't my highest," she said. "The features were a bit different because the water came up. All of us were struggling in the finals a little bit. Loops, McNasties, I was trying to do it all."
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934 or firstname.lastname@example.org.