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    January 10, 2015 Harrisonburg, Va. RSS |

    At Saturday's season-opening United States Collegiate Ski and Snowboard Association (USCSA) event at Massanutten Resort near Harrisonburg, Va., Liberty University's men's and women's snowboard teams won the slopestyle competition in a landslide, sweeping the first seven men's positions and the top three women's spots out of more than 75 competitors from eight Southeast Region schools. Bryan Ducharme, a freshman from Alaska, was the men's individual champion while Lady Flames sophomore Sydney Beatty, who recently recovered from ACL surgery, claimed first place in the women's division.

    "We came into the season extremely well prepared," Liberty Head Coach Ryan Leeds said, noting the nine men and three women on the travel team all have season passes to Wintergreen Resort, located an hour's drive from Lynchburg, Va. "Part of that is due to getting kids out early at the end of August and getting them on the snow early this winter. That has really paid off."

    Due to time constraints, the 60 men's riders were allowed just one run Saturday, with the top 30 advancing to the finals. Snowboarders had the option of taking a line with three jumps or an alternate path with mostly rail features. Regardless of the route they chose, they were scored on three criteria — amplitude, style, and technicality. .

    Ducharme scored 24 points for amplitude, 21 style points, and 18 for technical merit for a 63-point total, edging Flames senior Kevin Hoff (21.5 amplitude, 20 style, 16 technical for 57.5 points).

    "Everybody pretty much had a really great run," Leeds said. "Bryan Ducharme has lived here for the past year and we knew he was a pretty good rider, capable of winning. He looked smooth and definitely exceeded my expectations. On his last jump, he did a 900-(degree spin), which was a pretty good trick to throw on his last run."

    Flames senior Kevin Hoff grabs some air and his board.

    Leeds said Hoff should have received a higher technical score for incorporating a number of switch maneuvers, approaching the three jumps with the opposite end of the board than he normally leads with.

    "Between Bryan and Kevin, I knew it was going to be close," he said. "What it came down to was amplitude and style over technicality."

    Hoff was followed closely by senior teammates Isaac Gibson (20-22-12-54) and Chris Holt (19-17-12-48) while freshman Austin Santos (16-14-11-41), sophomore Brendan McHugh (16.5-12-11-39.5), and freshman Matt Ziegler (14-13-8-35) rounded out the top seven for Liberty, which placed all nine of its riders in the top 15.

    Team-wise, Liberty's men swept past regional competitors Appalachian State, Duke, East Carolina, James Madison, North Carolina, North Carolina State, and Virginia.

    Lady Flames senior newcomer Brooke Gibson placed second out of 22 competitors in her first USCSA event.

    For the Lady Flames, who competed against riders from ASU, Duke, ECU, JMU, and UVa, Beatty was the first-place finisher with 51 points (24-14-13) followed by senior newcomer Brooke Gibson (20-11-13-44) and junior Brandy Fronte (17-12-8-37).

    Due to her knee injury, Beatty wasn't able to snowboard until mid-November.

    "She only took a couple runs before the Christmas break, which she spent in Florida, so she had no time on snow until she went to Wintergreen last Thursday, the day before we left for (Massanutten)," Leeds said. "Just coming off a knee injury, for her to come in and take first was a pretty big accomplishment."

    He said Beatty, Gibson, and Fronte were the only three women in the competition to execute all three jumps on both of their runs.

    "The third jump was the biggest and Sydney was able to clear it and add some pretty big style points," Leeds said. "They all had pretty good amplitude. What set Sydney apart was the type of grabs she did."

    Complete results are available on the USCSA Southeast Region website.

    Leeds was particularly pleased with the way Liberty's riders, trained at Liberty Mountain Snowflex Centre, performed on snow, especially since the competition was held at night.

    "When you go to slopestyle events on snow, conditions and features can change on most every run," he said. "All of our athletes had to complete their second run under the lights and when it gets dark out, things get cooler and icier. The fact that they were able to land all of their runs in those types of conditions was pretty impressive. With more time on snow, I believe we can take one through nine in our next (men's) competition."

    The Flames and Lady Flames will next compete in a Slopestyle event Jan. 31 and a Boarder Cross on Feb. 1, both hosted by ASU at Beech Mountain Resort near Boone, N.C.

    They will have a near home-course advantage for the Feb. 19-21 USCSA Regional competition at Wintergreen before sending a complete team to the March 1-7 USCSA Nationals at Mt. Bachelor in Bend, Ore.


    By Ted Allen/Staff Writer