Skiers and snowboarders land on podium, travel team roster after Slopestyle comp
Saturday’s Slopestyle competition at the Liberty Mountain Snowflex Centre helped Liberty University ski & snowboard Head Coach Isaac Gibson determine the travel squads for his men’s and women’s teams when the USCSA season starts in the spring semester.
For the first time, Liberty will have seven men and seven women snowboarders on the competitive teams, with six men’s and four women’s skiers making the cut.
“Everybody on the team is fantastic,” said Taylor Keeran (’21), the women’s ski champion who is now in her first year as an assistant coach, joining fellow alumni John Hunt, Cole Kees, Jess Gibson, and Cole Loomis. “It’s good to have a lot of girls on the team this year. Sometimes it looks like we (outnumber) the guys. My freshman year was the first year we made a (women’s ski) team and it’s just kept growing from there.”
Senior Caroline Mills and sophomore Josie Rich placed second and third, respectively, behind Keeran, clinching spots on the women’s ski travel team.
Gibson was pleased with the turnout for the College For A Weekend (CFAW) event.
“It’s always great to get some practice in an actual competition setting going into the season, but it’s also just a lot of fun too to get out here, especially when it’s a CFAW weekend and there’s a lot of people in town,” he said. “It’s always awesome to be able to showcase the facility.”
He was impressed with the overall performances from his team in the Slopestyle event that included two jumps and two sets of rails or box features.
“There’s certainly a few people who were hoping to land their runs and perform a little bit better,” Gibson said. “But that’s how contests go and that’s the strategy that goes into it — just formulating your run in a way that you’re confident you’re going to land it because it’s not just one trick; it’s four tricks that need to be landed in succession to really be able to place.”
He said the perfect example of that was from senior women’s snowboard champion Coleen Leja, Liberty’s two-time USCSA National Champion in 2020, who held off senior Samantha Pesile (second) and junior Emmaus Rich (third) for first place.
“She certainly could have done more difficult tricks, but she read the field and did tricks that she knew would land her on the podium,” Gibson said. “That’s something I’ve seen here do across the board when I’ve watched her compete, paying attention to what her competitors are doing. If you don’t have to do a higher-level trick that you’re not consistent with, don’t risk it.”
Junior Jesse Mast’s high-risk run reaped great rewards with his first-place men’s snowboarding finish, edging seniors Ian Rosario and Tyler Sherbine.
“He did a switch 180 onto the butter pad continuing 360 out, then he did a back flip over the jump with an indie grab, then he did a front-blunt 270 out of the rail and then on the last three-story box, he hit the flat on the first down, but gapped over the center of it,” Gibson said.
Men’s ski champion Eli Haita, a graduate dressed up as Mr. Potato Head on the day before Halloween, took calculated risks in his winning run.
“He had really solid tricks all the way through and fully completed his line,” Gibson said. “There were a lot of skiers and snowboarders who had really good tricks, but were also taking falls and were not able to complete their line.”
Sophomore Cody Liebelt came in second, ahead of junior Luke Linker, and both secured spots on the men’s ski travel team with their showings.
“This is my first competition with the team, and it was fun to be out here with everybody and just be a part of the experience,” Liebelt said. “I’m excited. It’s looking really good. A lot of guys are coming up and we should be looking pretty good for years to come, too.”
Originally from Wisconsin, Liebelt enjoys the mountains of Virginia and is looking forward to training at Wintergreen Resort when the Flames and Lady Flames activate their season passes in December.
“I love it here and being able to ski every day (at Snowflex) is really awesome,” he said. “I’m so excited to get back out on snow. Carpet is fun, but snow is even better.”
By Ted Allen/Staff Writer; Video by Luke Linker edited by Kylee Ligle/Club Sports Video & Media Assistant
Liberty’s Spring 2022 travel roster
- Bobby Bynum, graduate
- Eli Haita, graduate
- Luke Linker, junior
- Coby Liebelt, sophomore
- Charlie Barkow, freshman
- Ollie Harner, freshman
- Meg Weigner, senior
- Josie Rich, sophomore
- Caroline Mills, senior
- Bella Tinney, freshman
- Tyler Sherbine, senior
- Ian Rosario, senior
- Jesse Mast, junior
- Andrew Smith, sophomore
- Jayden Horrocks, freshman
- Jordan Manning, sophomore
- Ben Scully, junior
- Coleen Leja, senior
- Sam Pesile, senior
- Emory Orlando, senior
- Emmaus Rich, junior
- Anna Meyer, freshman
- Maggie Burris, junior
- Regan Robinson, senior