SMS Trio Dazzles at Junior Nationals

Mountain Connection, March 20, 2023

By: Jed Donnel

Multiple SMS students competed around the world last week. Amid the flurries, corkscrews, twists and turns of various venues spanning North America and Europe, they managed a challenging and exciting schedule around their academic responsibilities. Locally, Steamboat was pleased to sponsor the U.S. Junior Freestyle National Championships singles and dual moguls competitions on the mountain, where three SMS Upper Schoolers culminated months of their hard work and training with amazing bravado in a quest for the podium. For perspective (among those of us who might fancy ourselves reasonably competent skiers but have long ago given up on the prospect of willingly completing a back flip and much less landing in a mogul field), to make Junior Nationals in the first place means you’re within a highly select group of exceptional athletes. Zoe, Abrianna, and Mia – a senior, junior, and sophomore, respectively – took their elite abilities to the course on the Travis Mayer (SMS class of 2000) Mogul Course on the Voodoo trail where they dazzled the crowd with various tricks over multiple jumps while careening in the fastest of lines toward the finish. The event spanned all of last week, including Opening Ceremonies, individual qualification runs for Nationals, and Dual competitions – which pits two racers against each other in side-by-side courses such that they need to navigate the added factor of competitive distraction out of the corner of their eyes while somehow staying balanced and poised for elaborately complex jumps all at the highest of speeds. On skis. On purpose. (I looked it up, by the way, and the term ‘dual’ accurately describes the two competitors in the same race, rather than ‘duel’ which would suppose that they fight against each other.) Zoe states, “What I love most about competitive skiing is the environment, the people, and the rush of adrenaline. The friends I have made in my ski career I will always think of as my closest friends. Getting to travel across the world with them to follow our dreams is the best experience I could ever have asked for. I don’t know if I could ever recreate the feeling I have at the top of a mogul course right before I start my competition run. Feeling a rush through my whole body as I push out of the start gate is the best feeling on earth.” Mia concurs, adding, “I love the community of mogul skiers. I have met all my best friends through competing. Everyone supports each other so much, and it feels good to have a group of friends with my same passion.”

Clearly fearless amid similarly fearless competitors, what is no less impressive to me is that these kids are also high school students who manage to navigate the dual onus of their coursework, which is often assigned to them by people like me who can scarcely fathom the nerve required for them to compete at such a high level. As you can imagine, it takes a lot of discipline to pull of such mental acrobatics, too, and SMS athletes are likewise appreciative of the support system around them. Mia states, “I try my best to get as much work as I can while I am away for competitions, but I also make sure to prioritize my mental health and not push myself too hard. Only having three classes in the winter is so helpful in staying on top of my school work. And, if I feel stressed Gina is always willing to help me make a plan.” Each student has dropped one of their core courses during the winter term, which they will then complete during Intersession in April while the rest of the school heads out for GS trips. Zoe adds, “When I am away at competitions I am up on the ski hill from 7am to 5pm, and then after that our team does recovery, and then we have to get ready to start the next day. So on ski trips I do not really have a ton of time to complete my work. I work with my current class teachers and Gina to form a plan of action for when I get back to campus. I plan out which classes and homework I will be missing and when to complete my missed work during exact study halls. This method helps me stay organized (for the most part) during the ski season.”

As a casual observer, I think their willingness to take on such challenge is truly amazing. As an SMS teacher, I believe their ability to keep their responsibilities in perspective is commendable.

The Connection