Bulldog 'boarders bring it home

MANCHESTER - The Burr and Burton Academy boys snowboard achieved a significant feat earlier this month when they took their fifth consecutive state championship. But as if that wasn't enough, the BBA girls squad followed suit, capturing their first state title since 2009.

"It was awesome," said junior Will Helmetag who placed second in the Giant Slalom event. "Our team has a lot of depth, we have a lot of kids compared to other schools, and a lot of kids specialize in different events like Slopestyle, for instance. So, that kind of contributes to how well we do." Burr and Burton coach Amy Herrmann was also excited to see her athletes take home the hardware.

"I was ecstatic," said Herrmann. "About halfway through the season I realized that with the right combination of kids, you know on both the girls and the guys side, that they both had potential to take the state title. I don't take anything for granted, but halfway through the season I knew that if everybody could stay healthy and everybody could keep their grades up then I think with the right combination we should go into states and be a force to be reckoned with."

Herrmann said that it was particularly gratifying to see the girls win their first state championship in four years as they have gotten close over the past several seasons, but have been unable to capture the title.

"Last season they were just a few points out and that was actually third place. So, the competition was tight," said Herrmann. "That was the highlight of the last few years; was seeing the girls go out there and put their heads together and dominate."

One of those girls was junior Caroline Kepler who led the charge for BBA, taking first place in the Halfpipe event on day one of states and then coming in second in the Giant Slalom and Slopestyle events the following day. Her performance in the Halfpipe event in particular - as well as the other girls - helped get the team going, Herrmann said.

"That was huge. Absolutely huge," said Herrmann. "Everybody was thrilled. Caroline was thrilled. Everybody was so excited mainly because Halfpipe is our weakest event and we don't get to train in it."

Kepler said performing well at states and finally claiming that elusive championship was a thrill.

"It was definitely really exciting. For the past two years, my freshman and my sophomore year, I did pretty well, I think, in the events, but I didn't do as well," Kepler said. "This year I did a lot better I think because I really wanted it. The other two years I was just doing it for fun and didn't really care how I did, but this year I think I wanted it a lot more so I tried a lot harder."

While the girls won the Halfpipe event - finishing 9 points ahead of second place finisher Black River - the boys came in second, entering the second day of competition trailing South Burlington High School by seven points.

"We didn't do so well in Halfpipe. I think the best was like seventh or sixth place," said Helmetag. "So, that kind of put the pressure on for Slopestyle and GS and then we ended up coming through."

Being behind and having some pressure on the team to perform can be stifling, but Helmetag said he felt as though it was beneficial. Similarly, Kepler said she believed it was more difficult to be in the lead.

"I think it almost added a lot more pressure having the lead because that means there's so many other people [that] have the drive to want to do better than you," she said.

Helmetag said the boys felt a little extra pressure as well because they didn't want to let their title streak to come to an end. But both the girls and boys teams rose to the occasion and Kepler said, for the girls, this was how they wanted to end their season.

"I [think] that everybody just wanted to win because we kind of felt like we've been doing this for a while [and] because the boys always win and we don't always win," said Kepler. "This year I think everybody just really wanted it."


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