In season opener, Flames first on boards, second on skis
January 11, 2014 | McGaheysville, Va.
Ten members of Liberty University's ski and snowboard team traveled to Massanutten Resort near Harrisonburg, Va., for the season's first United States Collegiate Ski & Snowboard Association (USCSA) slopestyle competition, held Saturday afternoon in rainy and windy conditions.
The Flames' men's snowboard team earned first place overall by landing five of the top six individual scores out of 52 competitors from nearby James Madison University, Appalachian State, Bridgewater College, UNC Charlotte, East Carolina, Duke, and Virginia.
Junior Kevin Hoff recorded the highest score overall, 81.7, followed closely by junior Isaac Gibson (75.6), freshman Brendan McHugh (74.2), and junior Zach Bukolt (72.6). Christopher Holt, another freshman newcomer, finished sixth.
"I was extremely proud of Brendan McHugh, to see the level he's progressed to since August," Liberty first-year Head Coach Ryan Leeds said. "He's made significant improvement in his riding ability."
The Lady Flames' snowboard team only had two competitors — freshman Sydney Beatty and junior Brandy Fronte — but they finished first and third, respectively, out of 15 riders to secure the team title.
"Brandy and Sydney had great individual performances," Leeds said. "It was actually a close call between the two of them. Both performed really well."
He was especially proud of Beatty, who won with a score of 45.1, separating herself from UNC's Kate Gerdon (41.2) and Fronte (40.5).
"This was her first time competing on snow," Leeds said of Beatty, who moved to Lynchburg from Florida and has been training at the Liberty Mountain Snowflex Centre since late August. "She has been wakeboarding her entire life and it was a little bit of a transition for her, but she did very, very well, surprisingly."
Beatty practiced once at Wintergreen Resort in nearby Nellysford, Va., to get ready for the competition and adjust to the speed of actual snow.
Liberty senior Tim Steltzer placed second individually out of seven competitors in the men's skiing event.
"It was real close judging on that," Leeds said, noting Steltzer landed his best score (90) on his first run before Bridgewater's Matt Wampler (90.6) surpassed him with his near-perfect second run. "It was a good competition. They got to make two runs and the best run counted to their overall score."
"As a team, we're focused on representing Christ and representing our university well," Leeds said. "We want to win, but more importantly than that, we want them to share the Gospel with those we compete against."
On the way to the event, the team prayed for witnessing opportunities and met Saturday morning for a short devotion before the competition.
"We talked about making sure we're relying on Christ for our identity, to know that He's sufficient for all of us, and not getting wrapped up in snowboarding and skiing and making that our main fulfillment," Leeds said.
He said Fronte took the devotional to heart and set an excellent example for her teammates.
"Brandy, even in the midst of competition, had a very missional mindset," Leeds said. "She initiated the prayer before the girls were getting ready to drop, praying with all of the female snowboarders that the competition would go well and everybody would be safe."
Liberty will travel to WISP Resort in Western Maryland for its next USCSA competition, with a Boardercross scheduled for Feb. 1 and a slopestyle event Feb. 2.