The UCSB alpine race team headed to Mammoth this past weekend for its third competition of the year and turned in another dominant performance. The Gaucho racers have already taken off to a quick lead this season, leaving competitors stupefied as to how this coastal school can rule a mountain just as heavily as it can rip a wave.
With five more competitions to go, the Gauchos have set their pace for first place, but scores will not be officially tallied until the end of the season. With most of UCSB’s racers placing in the top five, other schools were left aiming to simply make it to the finish line.
Races this weekend were held in both the men’s and women’s snowboard giant slalom, ski giant slalom, boardercross and skiercross.
The giant slalom run forces racers to challenge themselves against the clock, zig-zagging around gates on a wickedly steep course. Senior captain Christina Amoroso led the Gauchos in the women’s snowboard giant slalom, taking second place, while one of her good friends and competitors from Long Beach State stole first on her brand new race board. Senior Cara Moore came in third, freshman Chelsey Stewart nailed a surprising fourth and senior Kristine Nguyen finished with fifth.
The goal of these races is to get as many racers in the top five as possible, so Long Beach’s lone first place finish did not phase the overall Gaucho score for this event.
Santa Barbara was not able to place in the men’s snowboard giant slalom, but the women’s heat was enough to put the Gauchos on top for the weekend.
UCSB’s men’s ski giant slalom results eliminated any doubt of Santa Barbara’s dominance as senior Ryan Wood landed first place and senior Josh Sebold placed just behind. Junior Vice President Art Eisberg held up the stats with fourth place, leaving the event in UCSB’s hands as the Gauchos held three spots in the top five.
The women’s ski giant slalom brought heavy competition as sophomore Alexa Calfee came in second, freshman Morrigan Drew, a former racer for Squaw Valley, came through in third and junior Sloane Brown took hold of a definite fourth place.
Boardercross and skiercross bring a whole different style and devotion to the mountain as five racers line up top at the gates and prepare to bomb a course where skiing and snowboarding becomes a contact sport.
“I’ve been racing for five years now, as most of our team has, and there’s no doubt we all still get the nervous, bone-wrenching sensation before we get out of those gates; it’s balls out from there on down,” Amoroso said.
With five racers charging a narrow course that consists of a combination of obstacles such as gates, jumps and rollers, these mountain sports get serious, with helmets now required.
The Gauchos were unable to place in the men’s and women’s boardercross, but skiercross saw some positive results. Santa Barbara monopolized the men’s event, as junior captain Cameron Snyder took first, freshman Mark Gustafson grabbed second, grad student Suthee Wiri finished fourth and Eisberg, keeping the race purely UCSB, took home fifth place.
The women’s skiercross was also wholly Gaucho with Calfee in first, Drew in second, freshman Christy Riva in third, junior captain Lindsay Downing in fourth and freshman Jesi Robbins in fifth. Drew, Riva and Robbins have been major additions to UCSB’s success this season as they all migrated south from the shredding woods of Tahoe last year.
The only mishap of the weekend occurred on a practice run by Downing and Eisberg as Downing caught an edge, taking a nasty spill that threw her off course. She flew out, hit a tree and was left with a minor concussion – enough to give the whole mountain a scare. Downing recovered enough from her injury to finish in fourth in the following skiercross race, despite the fact that she her clothes still showed debris from the gnarly fall.
Without contemplation, UCSB’s alpine race team is regulating teams without looking back. Other schools are finding it hard to get any recognition in the sport as the Gauchos are taking places in the top five in almost every event, even in the icy conditions of this year’s winter.