Orlando replicates Leja’s feat as two-time gold medalist; Rosario leads men’s snowboarders to Slopestyle silver
Senior Emory Orlando soared to her second individual gold medal to lift Liberty University’s women’s snowboard team to its second USCSA National Championships team title by the slimmest of margins, Friday afternoon at Whiteface Mountain in Lake Placid, N.Y.
The Lady Flames followed the lead of the women’s ski team by repeating their first-place finish from Tuesday’s Rail Jam and landing atop the Slopestyle podium by World Cup points tiebreaker over runner-up Sierra Nevada. Both teams totaled 12 points with their four best individual finishers placing in the top nine, but Orlando’s 100 points earned on her 84-point first-place run pushed Liberty over the top in the tiebreaker, 185-176. Senior Samantha Pesile finished fifth individually with her 74.4-point ride earning 45 WC points, and junior Emmaus Rich came in sixth place with her 70.3-point run, adding 40 WC points to the team total. Freshman Anna Meyer placed ninth with her 52.67 ride.
Orlando accomplished exactly what senior teammate Coleen Leja did in 2020 when she became the team’s first USCSA individual gold medalist, also winning the women’s snowboard Rail Jam and Slopestyle events at Lake Placid. She finished fourth in the overall freestyle snowboard totals, which factored in her 20th-place finish in Boardercross. Rich came in third after finishing fourth in Boardercross, sixth in Slopestyle, and seventh in Rail Jam.
In the overall women’s freestyle team competition, Liberty finished tied with Sierra Nevada for first place. Though the tie-breaker went to SNU, it was still a phenomenal feat considering four years ago, Isaac Gibson’s first as Liberty’s head coach, there were no women on the team.
“I spoke with (USCSA’s scorekeeper) after the ceremonies and he was saying how cool it was to see a school giving Sierra Nevada a run for their money since for so many years they have dominated the women’s ski and snowboard events,” Gibson said. “It was an incredibly successful week on the women’s side. We went from our women getting third-place finishes to now in 2022 consistently being on the podium and bringing home multiple national titles as a team.”
He said the growth of the women’s program has been the result of bringing in former Lady Flames rider Jess Gibson as the first women’s snowboard coach in 2018 and skier Taylor Keeran as the first women’s ski coach this season, as well as prospective student-athletes seeing the community being built at the Liberty Mountain Snowflex Centre.
“It’s been a real grass-roots, natural growth, and we’ve seen that happen year after year,” Isaac Gibson said. “Coleen (Leja) has been a huge part of that, inviting other female athletes to tryouts.”
In the men’s snowboard Slopestyle competition, the Flames matched their second-place team finish from Wednesday’s Rail Jam, totaling 31 points to land behind only Sierra Nevada (8) and edge third-place San Diego State University (34) and Lees-McRae (N.C.) College (fourth, 34) with the University of Virginia (45) rounding out the top five.
Individually, Liberty senior Ian Rosario finished fourth with his best qualifying run of 65.67 and finals score of 63.33. Junior Jesse Mast (67.67) and senior Tyler Sherbine (68.67) also qualified for the 15-man finals but wound up in 12th and 15th place, respectively.
Complete results from throughout the week are available online.
“Tyler Sherbine and Jesse Mast and a few others had higher hopes coming into the week of being able to perform at a higher level, Tyler in particular as a senior,” Gibson said. “Unfortunately, for the finals in Rail Jam and Slopestyle, he wasn’t able to put together runs to the standard of his abilities. He still had a really great time and appreciated being able to finish off his career at Lake Placid.”
At the final ceremonies, it was announced that the 2023 USCSA National Championships will be held at Mammoth Lakes, Calif., as had originally been scheduled in 2021, which features one of the most pristine terrain parks in the country, according to Gibson.
Before leaving Lake Placid, Liberty’s skiers and riders got to enjoy one last recreational day on the slopes that hosted the 1980 Winter Olympic Games.
“Today was really awesome, as we got to finish off the trip with a free day filled with lots of fresh snow after God provided a snowstorm for us with a good 15 inches toward the top of the mountain,” Gibson said. “They had a really fun day, with some switching disciplines between snowboarding and skiing.”
By Ted Allen/Staff Writer