Farmington, Maine - UMaine-Farmington's Alpine, Freeski, and Nordic athletes return from USCSA National Championships held in Lake Placid, NY.
There is no other collegiate event quite like the USCSA Nationals. From the Olympic-like opening ceremonies to the side-by-side competitions of several winter snow sports, there is nowhere else in the country you can be a spectator for Alpine, Nordic, Freeski and Snowboard events all on the same day.
"The student-athletes included some of the best in the country at their specific disciplines and the courses they competed on were as challenging as any Olympic venue would be. Athletes competed as hard as they could, yet the respect and camaraderie shown between them was evident by the cheers at the finish line for each and every competitor. These college athletes had an experience they will never forget, full of accomplishments and challenges that define athletics," said Scott Hoisington, director of UMF snow sports and Alpine operations certificate program coordinator.
The event got off to a celebratory business-as-usual start, but was not untouched by the challenges of a country and world, trying to manage the health and well-being concerns. Ultimately, by Thursday, with the forecast and snow conditions changing as well, some events were compressed and the championships were cut short by the end of Friday. Closing ceremonies were not to be, but much was accomplished and learned in competition and beyond.
Congratulations UMF National Championship participants recognized as Academic All Americans!
Ryan Brueninghaus, Mullein Francis, Isaiah Reid, and Tom Wing
In men's Freeski Rail Jam, Ryan Brueninghaus and Ryan Townsend both made it to finals, with Brueninghaus making podium with a second-place finish and Townsend placing a respectable 11th on the national stage. UMF's Free ride placed 4th overall as a team in the event.
Brueninghaus and Townsend both utilized all the features in the event, with Brueninghaus wowing the judges in finals with his "270 disaster onto the down-flat-down tube, a front-swap to 450 off of the waterfall rail, and a front-swap to transfer to the down rail," said coach Shawn Russell. Townsend had a few clean slides as well, looking confident and holding his own in the competition. Brueninghaus and Townsend were looking forward to competing in men's Slopestyle on Saturday, March 14, which was canceled due to the COVID-19 situation.
On the snowboard-side, Simon Kern competed in men's Rail Jam, Slalom, and Slopestyle. Kern competed well in the rail jam. Kern didn't quite make it to finals, with a place 17th out of 43 riders in slopestyle, one spot away from qualifying. Although Kern didn't make a podium this time around, he was happy with his finishes considering the high level of riding at the National event and is motivated to keep improving so he may have another chance to go further next season.
Combined overall (GS and SL combined) men's team tied for 11th.
The men faced a multitude of snow surfaces in the final race of the season as they tackled Draper's Drop in Whiteface, NY. Simon Spear led the team's first run and layed a blistering run down in the top split, holding the fastest time for top split from 28th well into the teens. Simon went to his hip on the main pitch and with a hike only slid to 31st overall. Kyle Farrington made a move in his second run skiing very consistently to end up 24th overall, coming from outside the top 30 after run one and finished his collegiate standing up to the conditions. Zach Berliner slid from 40th to 50th after he struggled the first run conditions and hiked in his second run to finish 53rd overall. First year Beliveau learned what it took to stand on your feet as Beliveau skied to a 51st position overall, making a jump from 62nd after the first run. Hunter Bolduc rounded out the top five men with a 53rd overall, making a 27 position jump from 67th run one to 40th run two.
The men were grateful, discouraged, and somber as they finished their 2020 season. It was each man's first trip to the USCSA Nationals, as the team had not qualified during their tenure. The conditions were tough not only on the hill, but in their minds as the news of the University sending students home and shifting to on-line classes brought many questions. "I am proud of the men for completing the way they did," said Coach Andrew Willihan. "The unknowns the men faced not only learning the hill, the way the snow conditions were going to pan out, as well as becoming familiar with how it feels to be on a national stage was a lot to manage in their mental approach. I encouraged the underclassmen, who will return next to take notes daily on what they learned, took away, and would apply the next time we stand at a National Championship," instructed Coach Willihan. "For the upperclassmen, I asked them to find a quiet moment in the sun and close their eyes as it warmed their face and to remember, it is an honor and a privilege to be here and we should all take a moment to soak it in."
The Beavers personal bests included Farrington finishing in 24th, Spear in 31st, Berliner in 50th, Beliveau in 51st, and Bolduc in 53rd in the final SL race. As a team, the Beavers placed 8th overall.
The alpine program looks forward to the 2021 season, with tons of young energy returning and coming aboard. We want to thank everyone from our teammates, the school, family, and friends for the support we felt at Nationals this season. We could not have done it without any of them.
Mullein Francis, Isaiah Reid, Thomas Wing, and Jordan Fried showed a lot of Beaver Pride and toughness over the three races which ranged from hot, sunny weather to an inch of rain during the 15km Classic race on Friday.
The men's team placed 8th in the Combined, up from last year's 9th place finish, notching the second-best team score ever for the Beavers. Isaiah Reid ended up 18th in the Individual Combined category, up from last year's 27th place finish. Remarkably, he had two top 20 races and finished an impressive 12th in the Classic Sprint. Thomas Wing capped out his fourth year of racing with outstanding performance (27th) in the cold and wet15km Classic, his best result ever at Nationals. Jordan Fried, also competing in his last collegiate races, skiing consistently in all three races and ended up 35th in the Combined.
Mullein Francis, a first-year skier, and the first female to represent UMF at Nationals since 2015, got some great exposure to the national stage and ended up 35th in the Combined, the second-best female skier to ever race for UMF Nordic on this stage. Having skied in only one race more than 7.5km, her determination in the tough 15km race, in the cold, pouring rain, showed a great deal of inner-strength and perseverance.
Mullein and Isaiah are already making plans for next year and are determined to do what it takes to ski at the next level. Exposure at the national level has shown them where they are and where they can be. "Ski races are won in the summer," is the mantra of Coach Merit Bean after his first year of coaching at UMF. He congratulated the seniors on their careers and wishes them the best in the future.
The coaches were all proud of the athletes and how they handled themselves. They served as outstanding representatives of UMF.