Tuesday, June 27th, 2017

Inaugural Rail Jam catches major air

Posted on March 06, 2011 in Sports
By jneill

Dubstep blasting, freshly groomed snow, boxes, rails, an energetic and enthusiastic crowd and a group of USM’s finest winter athletes competing for king and queen of the hill. Sounds like a good time, right?

It was, as the scene on the Gorham campus’ Robie Hill on Saturday for the inaugural USM Rail Jam kicked off with a rowdy crowd of spectators on hand to watch the snowboarders and skiers of USM showcase their skills. And if one thing’s true, it was an entertaining affair.

“This was the most fun I’ve had at a university event,” Dan Malcolm, winner of the Rail Jam, said.

The format for the competition was two 30-minute jam style sessions, which involves riders taking as many runs as they can to impress the judges before the final round. The field of 15 was cut down to ten in the second round, and then to five in the third round, when each rider had five runs to become impress the judges.

Riders were judged on their landing, technical merit, intensity and speed, and style and control, with a total possible score of ten for each category. The rider who fulfilled the requirements the best in each category in the end won ­­— not necessarily the rider with the biggest trick.

Junior John Turner, who clearly pulled off the biggest airs of the day, came in second behind Malcolm whose smooth style proved to be the difference maker. Senior Jesse Zaengle came in third. The top three were awarded cash prizes via UCU gift cards.

All the enjoyment on Saturday was a direct result of the hard work and passion of the event’s organizers, Joe “Poach” Smith and Adrian Wong-Ken.

“We’ve been wanting to do a rail contest for quite a long time now, just on a smaller scale,” Joe Smith said.

Joe Smith and Wong-Ken started to develop the idea when they returned to campus from winter break. That small-scale plan quickly turned into a big- scale affair, as their dream of bringing this type of event to USM became a reality when Bob Smith, the director of administrative services for USM Risk Management, gave them the OK to put it on. The road to the final product wasn’t easy for Joe Smith and Wong-Ken, though.

Originally, Smith and Wong-Ken were influenced by a fellow USM student named Brian Libby, who had an idea for a similar event at the beginning of the 2010-2011 school year. But just as Libby’s idea started to fade, Joe Smith and Wong-Ken took the reigns of the project and never looked back.

“We met up with Brian on the third day of the second semester and he hadn’t really gotten anywhere,” Smith said. “He said that he wasn’t doing it anymore, and we said ‘we’re doing it’ and we’ve kind of spearheaded it from that point on.”

With the projected initial date of the event being March 5, the two snowboard fanatics knew they were on a strict time table, with no room for anything to go wrong.

First, Joe Smith and Wong-Ken had to present their business and equipment plan to Facilities Management, Student Senate, and then to Risk Management.

“Getting our plan approved by risk management was probably our biggest hurdle,” Wong-Ken said. “Our event had to be financially and liability feasible, and once that was approved, we were free to start with the actual planning. It was a game-changer for us.”

From that point on, planning of the actual event was the main focus for Joe Smith and Wong-Ken. Risk Management informed the tandem they needed to use insured equipment, preferably from a manufacturer who made custom rails and boxes. They found a company in Michigan called RailWerx who specialize in customized rails and boxes, which proved to be the perfect match Joe Smith and Wong-Ken were looking for. Joe Smith contacted Marc Honey, who deals with everything from prototyping to sales for the company, and introduced the ideas they had that were possibilities within their budget.

“We had a few conference calls with Joe and Adrian, and they had some great ideas,” Honey said. “This was our first experience doing a custom job for a university, so we were very excited from the beginning.”

The result was two 15-inch wide rails with one-half inch custom copings on each side, and a press box, otherwise known as the “Poach Box” due to Joe Smith’s role in helping design it.

But before this equipment was placed on Robie Hill, Joe Smith and Wong-Ken sought the expertise advice of Will Savage, the project manager of a Portland-based civil engineering company called Acorn Engineering, Inc. Acorn specializes in site management and development, and has had experiences with snow and skate parks before.

“Joe and Adrian came to me a bit last second and needed some help, and as a skier myself, I was more than happy to lend a hand,” Savage said. “They needed the proper design techniques in order to place the box and the rails on the hill, and I observed the hill to make adjustments so that it was safe.”

As far as next year, Joe Smith, Wong-Ken, and everyone involved have high hopes for repeating the event.

“This provided a great event for USM students and I think there’s a lot more we can do next year, starting with building a higher mound for the box,” Savage said.

“It was a successful day and it’s a sigh of relief that it’s over,” Joe Smith said. “We’re hoping to go even bigger and even better next year.”

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