UCSB’s alpine racing team captured five individual and team national championships on March 1-6 at the US Collegiate Ski and Snowboard Association’s national championship, held in Sugarloaf, Maine.
Senior snowboarder Justin Calbert won the men’s half-pipe and placed first in the overall snowboard category. The men’s team, thanks in part to Calbert, also took home first in the half-pipe. The women snowboarders had an outstanding performance, and though they would come away with only one first place event in the giant slalom, combined with their other efforts, it was enough to garner an overall national championship.
“We expected to do fairly well, but nothing like this,” Calbert said.
The conditions at Sugarloaf were extreme, with the weather some of the harshest the Gauchos had seen all year. At one point, due to technical difficulties and inclement weather, racers were forced to take as many as a dozen runs in the elimination portion of the event.
“Those were the iciest conditions I’ve ever ridden in. I will never say it’s icy at Mammoth [Mountain] again,” senior Allie Weil said in reference to Santa Barbara’s home mountain.
The Gauchos are hoping their regional success will mirror their recent national victories. Having just wrapped up their regular season this past weekend at Mammoth, the team is expectantly waiting for the results to be tabulated. During the course of the season’s six events, Santa Barbara has consistently placed in the top ten, with many of its racers edging up into the top five. If the numbers turn out right, UCSB could be celebrating its second consecutive Southern California Collegiate Snowsport Conference’s championship. The Gauchos won last year’s SCCSC league title by sweeping the snowboard and ski categories.
Besides Calbert and Weil, snowboarder Chris Pearson (national third place in half-pipe) and skier Wes Smith have led the men to another dominating season. Smith in particular has been a virtual first place land mark, complementing Santa Barbara’s snowboarding contingent with consistent performances throughout the racing season. Snowboarders Maureen Mercure and Karly Dawson have been strong for the Gauchos’ women’s team with regular top five finishes. Alice Gong led the women by taking fourth place in both the giant slalom and the half-pipe at Sugarloaf.
Overall, the Gauchos had seven All-Americans at the USCSA’s national championships, with some achieving that status in several different categories. Calbert and Gong tied with three first team All-American mentions each.
“We have such a great core of seniors this year. It’s going to be a big loss for next year’s team, but I think they’ll be fine,” Calbert said.