The Springfield College Skiing and Snowboarding club is back on the slopes this winter for its second season of action.
Although the club has been on and off over the past few years, Jack Reetz, a graduate student pursuing his MBA, campaigned hard to get the club started again.
“Skiing has been something I have done my whole life and I was very much interested in restarting the club,” Reetz said. “So that started when I was a freshman.”
After recruiting enough people to join the club, they planned to start competing in Reetz’s sophomore year, however COVID struck right before the first competition. The club was subsequently shut down for the following two years.
But come the winter of 2022, it started back up. With about 15 members, the team put up some solid results in their first season, but this year they have taken off.
“We probably had about 12-15 serious competitors last season, and we now have a team of 35 members,” Reetz said.
With this new squad, the Pride have taken part in two competitions this season, both at Middlebury College in Vermont.
On the skiing side, Reetz has racked up two top-10 finishes in both the slalom and giant slalom, and sophomore Bridget Mooney has a top-10 finish in the giant slalom as well.
“Skiing is very competitive, anything top 10 is an incredible performance,” Reetz said.
For snowboarding on the women’s side, first-year Jessica Schuth is off to a sensational start to her college career, with a second-place finish in the giant slalom, and a third-place finish in the slalom. Fellow first-year Bethany Herr racked up a couple of top-seven finishes, finishing fourth in the giant slalom and seventh in the slalom.
The men have also had a lot of success snowboarding, with Steven Pisano owning a top-two finish in the giant slalom, as well as a pair of third-place finishes in the slalom. Dante Digiovanni earned a fourth-place finish in the giant slalom, as well as sixth-place in the slalom.
Reetz has loved all the success he has seen, especially because it has been from a majority of underclassmen, especially the women’s squad.
“It’s like the most heartwarming thing for me, it’s like everything I wanted to see,” Reetz said.
A bright spot for the Pride is that they have been doing this without one of their biggest leaders, junior snowboarder Hunter Bernard.
“Hunter has been a certified coach for numerous years, and his advice across the board is what helped our club take off last year,” Reetz said.
Due to this coaching experience, Bernard is very comfortable with the leadership roles he is tasked with.
“I love being in a leadership role, and I have so much knowledge because I have been in this field a very long time,” Bernard said. “It’s really rewarding for me to pass on my knowledge to these younger skiers and snowboarders.”
While not only being a great leader for the younger snowboarders on the team, Bernard is a very talented snowboarder himself.
He got an incredible opportunity to represent the United States and compete at the 2023 FISU World University Games in Lake Placid, New York. Bernard competed frequently in Europe, but this was his first opportunity to wear the red, white, and blue.
“I’ve traveled and competed a lot before but this is the first time where I had a Team USA liaison at the hotel and got apparel,” Bernard said.
Bernard started snowboarding around the time he was seven years old. It started as only fun weekends out with his family, but as his older brother started to compete, Bernard found himself competing as well.
Bernard got the chance to take part in the games through previous competitions before college, whether in Europe or on the North American Cup circuit. By accumulating enough points in these events, Bernard was invited to compete in the games.
The FISU games are the largest global competition for college students, or as Bernard described it, “The Olympics for college students.”
To really give the event the feel of the Olympics, the athletes are housed in a village, just like the way the Olympics are run. Bernard said, “We had to stay in an athlete’s village, we couldn’t leave the campus, we had to use their transportation, so everyone kind of stuck together.”
Twenty-six different countries competed in snowboarding, with 46 countries competing in various events at the games. This led to plenty of interaction for Bernard with a wide variety of people he would not usually get to talk to.
“It was a really good opportunity to meet new people and interact with people you really wouldn’t know.”
For Bernard, it was also an opportunity to learn from other snowboarders.
“Being with riders that are on their country’s national team, and guys that have World Cup starts, it was a really cool opportunity to be with these guys.”
While competing at the events, Bernard finished 18th in the slalom and 26th in the giant slalom. However, his experience at the games was not just about results, but more of loving his time there.
Although he hit the slopes of Gore Mountain, which is an hour’s drive from Lake Placid, Bernard still got to feel the history of the city.
“I got to go to the opening ceremony of the event which was a super cool experience to walk along the ice rink where the ‘Miracle On Ice’ happened,” he said.
Now that the games have concluded, Bernard is back to contributing to the club, but he will always carry the experience of going to the games with him.
The Pride gets back in action this weekend on Jan. 28 at Magic Mountain in Vermont, where they will take on nine other schools from around the Northeast. They will be joined by Bernard, who is competing with his school for the first time this season.
Photo courtesy of Ski and Snowboard Instagram