Meadville Tribune

February 23, 2014

Shovel racers have a ball racing for a good cause

By Lisa Byers
Meadville Tribune

VERNON TOWNSHIP — “I was born on a shovel,” Jason Wilds quipped just moments before the start of the inaugural Snow Shovel Xpress race at AvalancheXpress on Saturday morning.

For Wilds and his buddies Josh Hinzman and Adam Black, taking a plunge down the 900-foot long tubing run on the blade of a shovel is not a new adventure. In fact, it’s a hobby the trio revels in.

“Yeah. We’ve done this before,” said Hinzman, who woke his crew at about 6 a.m. to prepare for their hour-and-a-half trip to AvalancheXpress. In fact, just last weekend the Beaver Falls residents participated in the 2014 Beaver County Snow Shovel Riding Championships at Old Economy Park.

“They’re the pros,” said Kim Lengling, one of the Snow Shovel Xpress race organizers.

Of course, each adventure is new. And for the Snow Shovel Xpress race, Hinzman and Co. chose to shake things up a bit. At least Hinzman did.

Saturday’s race also included competitions for best artistic design for decorated shovels and best outfit. Initially, Hinzman was the only racer competing for the award. The rather tall Hinzman drew immediate attention when he arrived at the tubing venue dressed in a bright pink rabbit costume.

“I’m the only one who took it to heart,” Hinzman said. “Guess I have a better shot at winning.”

Hinzman was eventually joined by a competitor dressed in a squirrel outfit and another who was dressed as a biker clown. Hinzman wasn’t sure  whether or not he would still win the award, but one thing Hinzman was pretty sure of was that the squirrel, with his large inflated tail, wasn’t going to beat his time down the slope.

“I would think that tail is going to pose a problem,” Hinzman said as the squirrel made his way down the walkway to the slopes with a group of students from Mercyhurst University, who were there to compete in the team race.

“What about your tail?” Wilds asked.

“Eh. I don’t let it get in the way,” Hinzman responded. “It’s just a little tail.”

Hinzman’s tail didn’t seem to pose any problems. His first trip down the slopes once the race began was near perfect as he managed to keep his shovel straight down the middle of the slope.

“Look how straight he is,” one onlooker said.

“Look how pink he is,” Lengling responded.

Overall, the inaugural event proved to be a success for not only AvalancheXpress, but Big Brothers and Big Sisters as well. AvalancheXpress partnered with Big Brothers and Big Sisters for the event by donating a portion of the race proceeds to the organization.

“We donated lift tickets and will also give them a cash donation,” AvalancheXpress co-owner Bill Kingzett Jr. said during the pre-race meeting.

The event also provided another adventure weekend getaway for Mike Copenhaver and his family.

“My girlfriend saw it on the internet, so we decided to come try it out,” said Copenhaver, who resides in Warren, Ohio. “We got a hotel in town and we’re going to go swim this afternoon.

“We always try to have adventure weekends.”

Copenhaver was also happy to support Big Brothers and Big Sisters.

“Big Brothers and Big Sisters is an excellent organization,” he said. “And it’s wonderful if this enables them to be able to do more outdoor activities. The fact that this benefits them … it’s a plus.”

Hinzman did wind up winning the award for best racing attire.

The King of the Hill award for the fastest overall male went to Brandon Prestegard with a time of 26.39 seconds. Lengling was the Queen of the Hill with a time of 31.8 seconds.

In the Cruiser Division (males 11-17), Andrew Kosar was first with a time of 29.5 seconds followed by Austin Herrmann (37.49). Wilds took home first in the Xpress Divison (18 and older) with a time of 27.48 followed by Ron Cochran (29.48).

In the College Challenge Division, Mercyhurst University swept the top two spots on runs by Pat Behm, Airion Watkins, Michael Foster, Jeff Groene, Ben Gysin, Tony Ferraro and Paul Kurpakus. The Corporate Team Challenge was won by AvalancheXpress represented by Darrel Miller, David Bromney, Brandon Presegard and Derrick Niemann. Amy Anderson, Ashley Anderson, Ty Rhoades and Adam Anderson competing for The Greatest Show on Snow placed second.



Lisa Byers can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at lbyers@meadvilletribune.com.