By Gregg Hoffmann Special to Published Jan 28, 2002 at 4:57 AM

Fifty world-class ski jumpers, including several who will compete in the Olympics at Salt Lake City in two weeks, appeared just Beyond Milwaukee this past weekend.

The jumpers came to the rolling Ocooch Mountains of Vernon County, to compete in the 79th annual Snowflake Continental Cup, just outside the little town of Westby.


"Once again the world has come to Westby," said Russ Hanson, president of the event. Indeed 14 nations were represented in the competition.

Tommy Schwall, who will represent the U.S. at Salt Lake, took the Saturday competition. He was the first American winner at the annual event in several years.

To see this event, which draws thousands of fans, among one of the most rural regions of the state always is somewhat remarkable. Timber Coulee, one of the premier trout streams in the Midwest, flows right near the base of the ski jump.

Often that stream is slightly frozen when the event is held, usually in mid-February. The event was moved up a couple weeks this year because of the Olympics. That move resulted in several Olympians from several countries competing in the event.

It also meant the event ended up being held in record warmth, as temperatures rose well into the 50s. That was great for the more than 6,000 fans who watched the two-day competition. Some even donned shorts!!!

For those volunteers who maintain the jump itself, the weather created a major challenge. But, they were up to it as the snow on the jump — the only white stuff to be found around — remained intact.

Nobody should be surprised that the volunteers were up to the challenge. Westby and the surrounding area rise to the occasion every year for this event. There aren't that many hotels and other accommodations in the area, so people voluntarily open their homes to the skiers and their coaches.

Farmers from the area bring their pickup trucks to drive the skiers and their equipment to the top of the bluff where the jump starts. The Snowflake members work through the night to groom the jump. It truly is magic to see the community come together to make the event a success year after year.

Milwaukeean beats Bucks

If the Bucks had to lose a double-overtime game Saturday, at least it came at the hands of a former Milwaukee native. The Knicks' Latrell Sprewell, who played his high school ball at Washington, poured in 48 points in the 129-127 win over the Bucks.

Sprewell's reputation overall has taken a beating. Choking your coach will do that. But, Spree also is known as a guy who always plays hard, and actually has done a lot of community work since the unfortunate incident a few years ago.

He still has friends and family in Milwaukee. In fact, we caught him Friday night at the Pfister, making cell phone calls to arrange dinners and reunions.

The loss was the Bucks' third straight, but fans shouldn't panic. They played well Saturday. Glenn Robinson also returned after missing 14 games with a bruised thigh and scored 38 points.

Once Ray Allen gets his shooting touch back, the Bucks will get back on the winning track. That could start this Tuesday, when they host the Celtics at the Bradley Center.

Big win in Philly

The first place Wave traditionally has had trouble in Philadelphia, but the team beat the Kixx in the Core States Spectrum, 11-4, over the weekend. Joe Reininger had an assist to extend his scoring streak to 96 straight games.

The win was the Wave's first in the Spectrum. The team has won five straight and 13 of its last 14. The Wave's 18-5 start is the best for 23 games in franchise history.

College basketball

The women from the UW-Green Bay and UWM battled for first place in the Horizon League over the weekend. UWGB won it, 83-75, to take sole possession of first place in the league at 8-0 (14-5 overall). UWM is 7-1 (13-6 overall).

The UWM men beat Detroit over the weekend to take over first place in the male standings of the Horizon. It was the Panthers' fifth straight win. They have a big game against Butler on Wednesday night.

Gregg Hoffmann writes The Milwaukee Sports Buzz on Mondays and The Brew Crew Review on Thursdays for OMC.

Gregg Hoffmann Special to
Gregg Hoffmann is a veteran journalist, author and publisher of Midwest Diamond Report and Old School Collectibles Web sites. Hoffmann, a retired senior lecturer in journalism at UWM, writes The State Sports Buzz and Beyond Milwaukee on a monthly basis for OMC.