National Championship had never crossed their minds.
Anything more than competing was considered gravy for the members of the UC Davis Alpine and Snowboarding Club.
The Aggies took home the women’s ski-cross championship at the 2010 National Championships on March Mar. 6 in Newry, Maine. The event is presented every year by the United States Collegiate Ski & Snowboard Association.
“We were shocked [to win],” said club president Hannah Jermstad. “We knew there were some phenomenal teams. We didn’t psych ourselves out and that was the key.”
This was the Aggies’ first nationals appearance in eight years even though they had qualified five years earlier. The dream of that national competition shattered when the team, which is still privately funded, was unable to scrape together enough money to attend.
Just one week before this year’s event, the ski club’s financial means were tested once again.
Jermstad helped to raise the money primarily through a music concert at the Beach Hut and ended with $1,500 for the team’s traveling expenses.
Fortunately for other teams, funding isn’t a problem because they are usually given money from their respective schools. The UC Davis ski club doesn’t have the same benefits.
“Skiing is a very expensive sport,” Jermstad said. “Other teams show up with matching uniforms.”
Although this is Jermstad’s first year as club president, she’s already realized that with added funding, more of the team could attend the national event in the near future.
The Aggies competed in a field of 474 male and female participants from more than 68 universities and colleges. The USCSA championships featured 26 events, including giant slalom, slalom, cross-country sprints, cross-country relays, cross-country distance, halfpipe, slopestyle, skiercross and snowboard cross.
The women’s team only competing snowboarder, Tess Weathers, won her second national title in the individual giant slalom.
“The collegiate nationals was my first big event,” Weathers said. “It was a really big investment. To get out there and win again is rewarding.”
Other achievements came from Sabrina Bedell and Gianna Aveni who earned first team and second team All-American, respectively.
Ski coach Jeremy Lukensmeyer said keeping a calm demeanor before the competition was beneficial to the team winning the unprecedented title.
“We try to make sure they don’t put too much pressure on themselves,” he said. “We just want them to be as relaxed as possible. The biggest challenge is to convince them that the racing isn’t a big deal.”
Jermstad and Weathers each recognize the importance of their coaches in having a successful season.
For Jermstad, their instruction allowed her to improve even when she thought she’d already hit her peak.
“Our coaches are phenomenal,” Jermstad said. “They talk to us about what we need to work on. [This year] was the first time I got to improve my racing since high school.”
Weathers viewed the coaches’ advice as something that can always be used in races.
“The coaches have been helpful,” Weathers said. “You can apply their teachings. It’s been a pleasure working with them.”
While every national champion relishes at the chance to defend their elite status, Jermstad said there are more pressing concerns for next year.
“We would love to have that happen, but it’s not our main focus,” she said.
Weathers, meanwhile, said there’s an opportunity if the team taps into their unpolished skill.
“We have a lot of potential,” Weathers said. “The chances are good if we continue with this momentum.”
Despite this year’s accolades, the club ultimately wants to be more recognized among students and the Davis community. If more students want to compete, then it would provide a quicker solution to the club’s financial plight.
“We have to get the word out,” Weathers said. “I think a lot of people are interested in freestyle racing. [The club] is a good way to improve.”
It is this passion for the sport and never-quit mentality that gives Lukensmeyer a sense of purpose each season.
“The best part of coaching is to meet and work with all the students,” Lukensmeyer said. “Something clicks for them and then you see the smile at the end of the race.”
Their smiles have never been bigger.
Those who are interested in becoming a part of the UC Davis Alpine Ski and Snowboard team can contact email@example.com for more information or join the club’s Facebook page to receive updates on events.
MARCOS RODRIGUEZ can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.