Skiers, snowboarders put on spectacular show at Snowflex, reap multiple awards
Members of Liberty University’s ski and snowboard team made up most of the podium finishers for the combined Big Air and Rail Jam competitions over the fall semester’s final College For A Weekend (CFAW), held Nov. 11-12 at the Liberty Mountain Snowflex Centre.
“It was one of the biggest events we’ve had in a while as far as actual participants with 38 total,” Liberty Head Coach Isaac Gibson said, noting that number included five youth male snowboarders and a handful of men’s skiers from Virginia Tech and a few local skiers and riders not attached to collegiate programs. “Spectator turnout was really awesome, with upwards of 200, so it was awesome to see the whole side of the slope lined with spectators and more down by the lodge.”
Flames and Lady Flames riders and skiers swept the gold medals in all four disciplines — men’s and women’s snowboarding and skiing. Competitors had four runs in both Friday night’s Big Air and Saturday’s Rail Jam events, with the best two counting toward their total score. Riders and skiers were able to select their routes and hit two different rail features.
In men’s snowboarding, senior Jesse Mast captured gold, and the $200 first-place prize money, followed by sophomore Jayden Horrocks (silver, $150 payout) and Noah Austin (bronze, $100), a Lynchburg local who has worked at Snowflex since he was 16.
“Going into it, we had high expectations for Jesse, but both he and Jayden rode really well,” Gibson said. “Last year was Jayden’s first year with the team and his first year competing in snowboarding and he’s grown tremendously, and he put in a solid performance. He was really consistent with his tricks and selection and being able to land his jumps and put down solid runs and get the points necessary to place right behind Jesse was impressive.”
Sophomore Coby Liebelt won the men’s skiing combined competition, followed by freshman Cameron Brandenburg, and Luke Thrasher from Ohio, who has worked the past few Next Level summer camps at Snowflex.
“We have definitely seen progression from Cameron coming in, learning the ropes at Snowflex and picking up some new tricks throughout the semester,” Gibson said. “Competing in front of the CFAW crowd, you need to be able to execute under that pressure, and he did, which was awesome to see.”
He said Liebelt’s familiarity in those situations, including at the USCSA National Championships, gave him the edge in the final scoring, even though he has missed most of the semester due to injury.
“Coby coming in as a sophomore, with more experience under his belt, made a difference,” Gibson said, noting that he was injured in the season’s first exhibition at Snowflex in September. “I was impressed with him, not being able to ski much this fall semester and having spent only a week or two practicing again before this event.”
In the women’s snowboard competition, sophomore Emmaus Rich struck gold followed by senior Emory Orlando (silver) and freshman Hannah Walder (bronze).
“Emory would have been projected to take first place, but she took a really hard fall in warm-up and was debating whether or not she would even compete,” Gibson said. “She competed really well on the (Big Air) jump and was the winner of that event, but when she went to the Rail Jam, she wasn’t able to put together two really solid lines, whereas Emmaus was really consistent on the jumps and the rails. Hannah, with this being her first time ever competing, I was really pleased with her performance.”
Finally, in women’s skiing, junior Josie Rich finished first, followed by sophomore Isabella Tinney and Liza Giles, a competitor from Virginia Tech’s team.
Members of Liberty’s ski and snowboard teams are hoping to make at least one trip to Wintergreen Resort in nearby Nelson County, Va., before Christmas break, if temperatures allow for it to make enough snow in time for its projected Dec. 10 season opening. They will open their USCSA season with a Slopestyle and Boardercross/Skiercross competition from Jan. 21-22 at Beech Mountain (N.C.) Resort.
By Ted Allen/Staff Writer; Video edited by Micah Adams/Club Sports Video & Media Assistant