WALLA WALLA, Wash. -- The victory margin was razor thin and one of its members suffered serious injuries, but the Whitman College men's snowboard team won its third consecutive national title last month at the U.S. Collegiate Ski & Snowboard Association Championships at California's Northstar-at-Tahoe resort.
With freshman Troy Dolan and senior Spruce Schoenemann placing first and second, respectively, in the giant slalom, the men's team dominated that event and then finished second in the half pipe competition.
The men's team from the University of California-Santa Barbara won the half-pipe and placed second in the giant slalom to tie Whitman for the top spot in the all-around team scoring. Whitman took home the national title, however, based on the tie-breaker system (total individual place points for both events).
Whitman's triumph lost some of its luster and nearly turned tragic when one of its competitors, Jon Heras, suffered serious injuries in a fall at the bottom of the half-pipe course. A large laceration to his liver caused internal bleeding and raised the specter of liver failure. Heras, a sophomore from Tacoma, Wash., spent a week in a Reno, Nev., hospital before returning home and eventually to campus.
Schoenemann, president of the snowboarding club, says Heras is "doing quite well now," although he's prohibited from participating in contact sports for six months.
The men's team began its latest national run by sweeping four of the top six places in the giant slalom event. Dolan, a freshman Wayzata, Minn., was a decisive winner, posting a total time of 1:15.11 for his two runs. Schoenemann (Pawlet, Vt.) was the event's runner-up for a second consecutive year, finishing in 1:19.96. Sean Lee-Siebels, a sophomore from Littleton, Colo., was fifth in 1:24.29, just two-tenths of a second out of fourth place. Heras took sixth with a time of 1:26.09.
Whitman's winning team score in the giant slalom (top three finishers) was 239.36, nearly 27 seconds ahead of second-place U.C.-Santa Barbara.
Later in the week in the half-pipe, Schoenemann placed fourth while Heras finished sixth despite missing his second run due to his injury. Hunter Benedict, a freshman from Canby, Ore., was seventh, and Sean Lee-Siebels was 17th. Based on its place points for its top three finishers, Whitman was second in the team scoring with 17 points. U.C.-Santa Barbara won the team scoring with 14 points.
In the individual combined scoring, Schoenemann finished second with 32 points, eight behind the winner, Justin Calbert of U.C.-Santa Barbara. Heras placed fourth, Lee-Siebels tied for sixth and Benedict tied for eighth.
At last year's national championships, Schoenemann won the individual combined scoring, edging teammate James Caron. Two years ago, Caron was first and Schoenemann second.
Caron, now a junior at Whitman, was on foreign study last fall and was unable to compete this semester because of injuries. He is expected to rejoin the team next fall.
With Schoenemann set to graduate this spring, the men's team will assume a decidedly different look next year. He started the snowboarding club during his freshman year and has served as captain, coach, president and budget manager ever since. "It's been a lot of work, but it's also been very rewarding to establish a highly competitive and successful snowboarding program," Schoenemann says. "There's also been a lot of support from other team members," he adds, as well as from Whitman president Tom Cronin and director of skiing Tom Olson.
Whitman made its snowboarding debut at nationals during Schoenemann's freshman season. The men's team tied Simon Fraser University for first in the combined team scoring but lost that year's title on the tie-breaker. The Whitman women's team also placed second that year.
Final decisions have yet to be made about next year, but Benedict has been Schoenemann's "understudy this semester and most likely be the new president," Schoenemann says. Other possible appointments will have Heras as vice president, Caron as team captain, and Caron and Dolan sharing the coaching.
The Whitman women's snowboarding team, represented by three first-year competitors at this year's national championships, will also remain active. Jill DeVleming (Clarkston, Wash.) will serve as the club's representative to the student Congress, while Kerri MacLaury (Weston, Vt.) will be the budget manager.
DeVleming placed ninth in this year's giant slalom event. Two of her teammates, MacLaury and Danielle Phillips-Dorset (Peru, Vt.), tied for ninth in half-pipe, while DeVleming was 13th. In the combined scoring, DeVleming was 10th, Dorset-Phillips 14th and MacLaury 16th.
A fourth member of the women's team, junior Juli Armstrong (Eastsound, Wash.), traveled to nationals this year but was unable to compete after falling and breaking her collarbone during a training run.
Several members of this year's snowboarding teams earned Academic All-America honors. Schoenemann earned academic distinction for the fourth time. Lee-Siebels was honored for the second time. Also nabbing Academic All-American recognition in their first trip to nationals were Benedict, MacLaury, DeVleming, Phillips-Dorset and Armstrong.