The USSSA Nationals: The Good, the Nude and the Triumphant

Crazy, is no longer a word of non-affinity. Instead the word has been used as an acronym for “brave”, “energetic” or “motivated. For me, the crazy has now become ever synonymous with badass.

Badass it was at the USSSA 2014 Dion Snowshoes U.S. Nationals, and crazy were some of the participants. However, beyond the craziness it took for hundreds of athletes to travel to Woodford, a tiny blip on the map in southwestern Vermont, the desire to step outside the societal realm of what is considered normal was apparent with the wide range of stories these heroes of winter brought with them to the base of Prospect Mountain.

A naked man tells a naked story… to me

“I am nuts, that’s all there is to it,” said Steve Mazza of Utica, N.Y., just after he finished in a time of 1:47. “I think the courses are deliberately sadistic.”

At 69, Mazza has shown no intention of slowing down, as his retirement has consisted of road and snowshoe racing, writing and… wait for it… nude modeling.

The same courage that it takes Mazza to endure one of the most vigorous sports out there, is the same courage that Mazza taps into when bearing it all in front of a classroom full of college students.

“I found through my nude modeling that there is a lot of humor in it,” said Mazza, who has had his nude figure drawn somewhere in the ballpark of 30,000 times by students of his local community college’s art program. Using these stories, Mazza wrote a book about the fear, humor and self-awareness that his nude modeling retirement career has brought him, which he has appropriately titled: “It Takes a Naked Man to Tell a Naked Story.”

There is no doubt that Mazza, who plans to compete in next year’s nationals in Eau Claire, Wis., will continue to buck the trend of living a quiet and relaxed retirement life, as his drive for excitement and accomplishment continues to open new doors for him.

“As a senior citizen I like to prove that we don’t need to be home sitting on the couch all the time,” said Mazza. “Running these races allows us older folks to prove that we are not forgotten.”

The ultimate veteran pushes himself again

At age 84, no one has proven Mazza’s point as to the strength within our older citizens than Richard Busa, who finished his 10th national event and 139 snowshoe race overall with his completion of this year’s Nationals in Vermont.

“Someone talked me into competition in a race back in 1999,” said Busa. “Since that time, I have been in love with the sport.”

Busa, who is known around the snowshoe racing circuit for his strong finishes, continued that trend this year, as he stepped up his pace, for the final quarter-of-a-mile and crossed the finish line with friends, fellow racers and family waiting to congratulate him on finishing the brutal course in under two hours.

“I thought I was finished down at the bottom of that last hill,” said Busa with a radiant smile on his face. “That’s what’s great about these races… you have to push yourself when you can’t.”

As Mazza, Busa and the hundreds of other athletes have shown, the personal triumphs of those competing far outweigh what any stopwatch will tell you. It is these stories that have made the 2014 USSSA Nationals so unique, and are exactly why these races bring athletes who have chosen to celebrate winter by cheering for everyone to conquer their own personal mountain, fully clothed or not.

For more information on the USSSA and snowshoe racing, visit

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Evan Chadwick

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