On March 5, senior Brittany Kennedy became the No. 2 female
collegiate snowboarder for parallel giant slalom in the U.S.
— not bad for someone who only began snowboarding
competitively in January of this year.
Kennedy is part of Michigan’s 67-member ski and snowboard
club team. Although the team only competes at the club level, it
has held its own this year among varsity teams. At the U.S.
Collegiate Skiing Association regionals in Marquette last month
— where both club and varsity programs competed — the
women placed ninth overall out of 18 teams, while the men finished
sixth out of 19 teams.
To qualify for nationals, you either must be on one of the top
three teams in your region or have the best time of a non-team
qualifier in an individual event. So it’s impressive that two
Michigan athletes — Kennedy and senior Oliver Stauffer
— qualified. A third club member, sophomore Kris Janssen,
came in eighth out of 125 in the slalom at regionals, missing the
cut for nationals by just one skier.
Stauffer placed eighth last year in the parallel giant slalom,
but it was Kennedy’s first time at nationals. She has skied
for the club all four years, but this was her first year competing
in snowboarding events. This year, the national competition was
held the first week of March at Maine’s Sugarloaf/U.S.A. ski
resort. The 4,237-foot Sugarloaf Mountain was the site of
Kennedy’s races in the slalom and giant slalom. Kennedy
snowboarded down trails on the mountain approximately 1,000 ft. in
Perhaps the fact that she’d never been to nationals before
helped her to stave off any nerves in the early days of the
competition — she was first going into the final event.
“I just had no idea going out there,” Kennedy said.
“On the first day in the qualifying runs, I did really well
— I was in first. I was seven seconds ahead of everybody,
which is huge. Usually (a lead is) like one second or one-hundredth
of a second.”
Her time of 49.61 seconds in the final race gave her the
Kennedy reflected that she initially thought that this year
would be her last in terms of snowboarding or skiing competitively,
but with her national second-place finish, the senior has realized
that there could be more possibilities for her in these sports.
“I would love to do the X Games or be on the Olympic B
team,” Kennedy said. “I was thinking about going to Mt.
Hood over the summer and just running with it now.”
One skier on the team who did not make it to nationals was
senior Jacqui Buda, club president and co-captain of the team.
On the second day of regional competition, Buda hit a
compression in the course that threw her off balance. The spill
that followed left her with a blown-out knee, a gash on her head
that had to be stitched up in the emergency room and the likelihood
of not being able to ski competitively ever again.
“It’s funny; right as I was getting in the gate and
it being my last day of competition, I was thinking about how
it’s weird that I’d been skiing for about 17 years and
had never hurt myself,” Buda said. “Now I look back and
think ‘Why was I even thinking about that?’ —
clearly it didn’t help.”
Even though her season didn’t end on the high note that
Kennedy’s did, Buda said she has no regrets about devoting so
much time to the club over the past four years.
She explained that the team — even though fairly large
— is a close-knit group.
Every weekend in January and February, the team travels north to
various ski resorts to either practice or compete.
Last year, the club almost doubled in size, and Buda said she
hopes it will continue to grow even after she has gone.