Out freeriding with her friends at Jay Peak, two weeks before the state meet, Haley Goff went “too big” off a jump and came down awkwardly.
Feeling pain right away, she stopped riding for the day.
But not for the season.
Competing with a torn ACL in her left knee, Goff won slopestyle and took second in halfpipe and giant slalom to claim the girls overall title at the Vermont high school snowboarding championships at Okemo on March 11.
The North Country Union standout’s first individual title also steered the Falcons to their first snowboarding team title, and helped Goff land another honor: The Record’s 2019-20 Snowboarder of the Year.
“I was just going to go for it,” Goff said of competing on the injured knee. “It wasn’t going to get any worse.”
Goff, the 17-year-old junior, finally broke through this winter after flirting with an overall championship last winter and missing out on the overall title as a freshman when she was also named The Record’s Snowboarder of the Year.
She was runner-up for the overall crown last season, winning slopestyle, taking second in GS and snagging fourth in halfpipe. As a freshman, she won slopestyle and GS, but not competing in halfpipe took her out of the running for the overall victory.
Those performances came on two healthy knees.
This winter, she soared to the top with a knee brace and sheer determination.
A day after hurting her knee while riding at Jay Peak’s Interstate terrain Park, and yet to find out the extent of her injury, Goff strapped on a “wobbly” knee brace and competed in a last-chance halfpipe state qualifier at Okemo where she took third and fourth place (if she didn’t compete, she would not have qualified to ride in halfpipe at the state meet and would not have had a chance at the overall title).
A day later she went to the emergency room at Northwestern Medical Center in St. Albans, but an X-ray didn’t reveal much. After an MRI a couple days later, Goff got the news of her torn ACL.
“I was scared,” Goff said.
But with just a week left before the state meet, Goff didn’t give up.
“The doctors at Northwestern were able to get me a sports brace right away,” Goff said. “It took me five days to relearn how to ride; I practiced four days with a torn ACL and a new brace.”
At the state meet, she thrived, especially in slopestyle where she earned her third straight crown. She did a “180 off” on the first rail, a board slide on the second, and landed 360s on both jumps to grab gold.
She also had enough power, speed and skill to finish runner-up in giant slalom and halfpipe.
“What she did was truly remarkable,” said North Country coach Bobby Walls-Thumma. “We were so worried about the injury, as we thought after all of the hard work she put in this season, she would miss her chance to compete at states. The fact that she was able to go out there and still sweep the field given her injury speaks volumes to her grit, determination and competitive spirit.”
Goff, who runs cross country in the fall and plays tennis in the spring, also competes in USASA snowboarding events, where she was Northern Vermont’s top-ranked rider in boardercross, slopestyle and halfpipe (17U).
Goff had surgery on her ACL on March 18 and is currently doing physical therapy at home. She’s determined to come back stronger.
“Haley is an all-around amazing athlete,” Walls-Thumma said. “She trains hard, works tirelessly to improve her technique and serves as a total role model for her teammates. She’s always there to lend a helping hand, and her drive to compete at the highest of her ability level allows her to be completely dominant in our sport.”
Parents: Patrick Goff, Jennifer Mahoney
Siblings: Elliott Goff 13, Quinn Goff 12
College aspirations: I want to go to a college that I can be on a snowboarding team, but I don’t know what I want to do yet.
What snowboard do you run on: Burton Talent Scout 141.
How long have you been snowboarding: Since I was 5.
How do you feel about the year the team had: This was the first year that we had enough girls for a full girls team. The girls and the boys on the team are always supportive and we all try to make each other better riders.
How would you grade your season: If I had to grade it on a scale of 1 to 10, I’d grade it at a 9. It was really good, but if I didn’t tear my ACL, it would have been a 10. The team was great. I had fun and I learned a 540.
Favorite moment from the season: My favorite moment was after I finished my last run at state, it was slopestyle, and I saw my family and friends down there waiting and cheering.
What are you looking to get better at in the offseason: Recovering and staying in good shape for next season.
Who was the toughest competitor you faced this season: Alayna Chun of BFA-St. Albans. It was great to compete against her. She, like the rest of the competitors, is so supportive.
Who inspires you in snowboarding and why: Chloe Kim because she is so young and she can throw down! Also my dad inspires me to keep trying until you get it.
Favorite event in high school: Slopestyle
Favorite mountain to freeride: Jay Peak
Favorite mountain to race: Jay Peak
What are you doing to pass the time now that in-school instruction is canceled: I am still trying my best to keep on top of my work, but working on my physical therapy.
Dream snowboarding destination: Anywhere out west, Mt. Hood (Oregon), Copper Mountain (Colorado).
Any regrets or anything you would change about your recent season: I would not have gone out on the day I tore my ACL. I should have just stayed home.
What’s the best advice you can give to young athletes: Keep snowboarding girls and boys, even when things get tough, keep trying! I have fallen many times and I have gotten hurt, but as long as you put your mind to it, you can do anything!
Where do you see yourself in five years: In college or snowboarding professionally.
The Record’s Snowboarders of the Year
2019-20: Haley Goff, North Country Union
2017-18: Haley Goff, North Country Union