USSA honors four graduates
June 4, 2013
Pomp and Circumstance didn’t even play all the way through before the four members of the USSA TEAM Academy’s inaugural graduating class passed through the group assembled on the third-floor deck of the Center of Excellence on Saturday morning.
Against a clear blue sky, framed by Park City’s tallest mountains, headmaster Dan Kemp stepped to the podium to welcome the small crowd of family and friends to the first-of-its-kind ceremony.
Though it was technically a high school graduation ceremony for Kiley McKinnon, Jess Breda, Alexi Micinski and Maddy Olsen, the atmosphere was much different from an average graduation.
To get to the third floor deck, guests had to walk past banners of hometown hero Ted Ligety, a state-of-the-art workout center for world-class USSA athletes, and plaques with pictures of winter sports legends like Kelly Clark and Bode Miller, among others.
The unusual setting was fitting for an unusual graduating class. After all, it’s not every day that an entire graduating class has Olympic aspirations. All four graduates said the 2014 Sochi Olympics are on their to-do lists.
"I’m going to try my best to hopefully make it," McKinnon said. "I’ve been working really hard and hope I can possibly make it to Sochi."
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McKinnon and Olsen will try to make the freestyle aerials team, while Breda and Micinski hope to be on the first-ever women’s slopestyle team.
Though they’ll keep chasing their athletic dreams, they all know the importance of academics. Through a partnership with Westminster College in Salt Lake City, all four girls will pursue degrees.
Because it’s offseason for the skiers, they’ll jump right into their college careers without much of a break.
"I’m starting class in a couple days," McKinnon said on Saturday.
Olsen said she’s happy she gets the chance to pursue high-level athletics while still getting a good education.
"It was an awesome opportunity for me," she said of the TEAM Academy. "This graduation just sums up the entire year it was awesome."
Breda said the alternative schooling was a perfect fit for her as well.
"I’ve been doing online schooling for a while and it’s really difficult with the high level of competition," she said. "But here, all I had to worry about was my schoolwork. All I had to do was simply learn. I was never told I couldn’t go somewhere (for an athletic competition). They created a balance I couldn’t create on my own."
Bill Marolt, president and CEO of USSA, said the TEAM Academy fits into USSA’s "Best in the World" mentality.
"Our belief is that you have to bring the best athletes of every age level together and give them the chance to compete," he said. "That sets an excellent example for every other athlete in the rest of the country as well."
He added that seeing the academy’s first graduating class receive its diplomas was a great moment for the USSA.
"This was a very special day," he said. "It’s a day of celebration because we are recognizing young people and their accomplishments. It was exciting to see the enthusiasm and sense of pride all the graduates showed us."
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