SNC winter sports teams head to USCSA nationals

Gabby Dodd, Editor

Sierra Nevada College’s winter sport athletes headed off to nationals March 9 to compete at the 41st annual United States Collegiate Ski and Snowboard Association (USCSA) National Championships. The five-day event took place at Snow King Mountain in Jackson, Wyoming, a new partner resort for the association.


Former student coach, Freddy McCarthy, returned this season after graduating in May 2018 to coach the snowboard team full time. The biggest challenge the team has faced this season, is the weather. Large storms have made it hard for resorts to maintain terrain parks leaving the team with shortened practice days. According to McCarthy, despite the weather, the team had adequate training days to prepare for nationals, but not as much as years past.

“With defending national champ, Ben Hojnoski leading the team we have pretty good chance,” McCarthy said. “We’re also hoping for a stand out performance by Marc Speake in the races.” Junior snowboard team member Breck Beishline, says she is most ready for the rail jam event. Her motto for nationals is to stay, calm, cool, and collected. “It’ll be cool to check another state off my list, never been to Jackson, but always wanted to go,” Beishline said.


The racers have had a successful season, especially in the last few races despite weather challenges making practices difficult and losing a team member for nationals due to an injury. “They all scored some good results that I believe will give them the confidence they need [for nationals]” coach Mihaela Kosi said.

Four skiers on the team will graduate in May, so next year’s team will be a very young, according to Kosi. One of the members graduating is Saana Ahonen. She has been racing for 15 years and says she is hoping to bring home the national championship title as a team. Ahonen says giant slalom is her stronger discipline and she loves the GS course at Snow King, so she is looking forward to that event on March 12. However, after all these years of racing Ahonen is excited to start a new chapter in her life. “I will still always be a skier, but it’s time to change stiff race boots to comfy ones,” Ahonen said.


Coaching challenges impacted the freeski team this season after former student coach, Connor Clayton did not return to the position after graduating. This was known that Clayton would not return, so during preseason, Olympian Maddie Bowman helped run the team’s morning workouts until she had to return to her own competitions. However, struggles to find a new coach persisted, prompting juniors Cole Lyon and Sam McChesney to take the roles of team captains. “We took on this role because we didn’t want to see the team fall apart,” McChesney said. In December, McChesney suffered an ankle injury that will keep him from competing with the team at nationals. He will instead be coaching the team at nationals, taking on a big leadership role to manage the team.

“We have some very strong skiers on the team,” McChesney said. “I believe if everyone performs to their full potential, we have a very good chance of winning another USCSA national title.” For many freeski team members, such as Vilde Johansen, Bridget O’Brien, Sean Conroy, Andrew Eells, and Sarah Lingg, this nationals will be their last. O’Brien says she plans to make the most out of her last nationals and hopes to be on the podium again for the slopestyle and rail jam events. Johansen, is excited to get back on the road. “Traveling with the team is one of the highlights of the year,” Johansen said.