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Graduating: Winter Sports School style

Taylor Eisenman, of the Record staff

For most kids, having summers off is the best part of the school year. But for the 2007 graduating class of Park City’s Winter Sports School, just the opposite is true.

"I moved here from Wyoming so I could go to school in the summer and ski in the winter," Zach Thompson, a senior and mogul skier who transferred to Winter Sports School this year, said. "It was almost impossible at my old school for me to go to competitions because of its attendance policy."

Senior Charlie Reynolds, an alpine skier, said that when he went to Park City High School as a freshman, he missed 36 out of 90 days during the winter season for races, causing him to struggle greatly with his school work and fail an art class.

Reynolds said his parents were very supportive of him going to Winter Sports School.

According to Principal Rob Clayton this year’s graduating class of 21 children is one of the biggest in the school’s history with students who specialize in a range of activities, from alpine, freestyle and big mountain skiing to snowboarding, bobsledding and art.

"Sometimes we accommodate people who are looking for a smaller school with a more rigorous curriculum," Clayton commented about students who attend Winter Sports School not for a particular sport.

An intimate environment

Abby Stanislaw, a graduating alpine racer, said having small class sizes was one of the Winter Sports School’s best features.

"It creates such an intimate environment," she said. "If we have a problem, we know we can talk to our teachers about it. I went to the high school for one year and it just wasn’t like that."

"You get a lot of one-on-one time with teachers," Reynolds said. "They really get to know you."

Senior and slopestyle snowboarder, Erika Vikander, said the school’s teachers really care about their students. "They work with you to make sure you’ll graduate," she said. "It was an awesome opportunity to go here. It’s unlike any other school I’ve been to."

Clayton applauded the teachers’ efforts as well, "they’re really good about going the extra mile to work with the kids to make sure they understand everything."

Vikander went to the Winter Sports School for her junior and senior years. Before that, she attended Park City High School. "There’s a huge difference from being at the high school," she said. "It’s not like the teachers don’t care there, but I feel like there’s a whole a new level of caring at the Winter Sports School."

Vikander’s favorite class was public speaking because she felt everyone bonded together and had a fun time, which, according to Stanislaw, was not always the case with the class as a whole.

Class controversy

Stanislaw’s graduation speech is about how her class was unique because they really didn’t get along. "We’re kind of controversial in that way," she said. "There was a big division between the racers and the freeriders."

"We’re all really intense, and we have lots of strong personalities, which is why I think we get into such heated arguments," she said.

Clayton described the class as "very independent." "The students have a high degree of self awareness for their age; they have a good handle on who they are," he said.

He attributed their maturity to the sports they are involved in and the extensive travel they’ve done. "If you don’t know yourself well, it’s hard to set goals for yourself. These students are realistic in their goal setting and aspirations," he said. "If you have that kind of awareness, anything is possible."

Academic rigor

For Thompson, the Winter Sports School not only helped him focus more on mogul skiing skills, but also more on his school work. "My other school was a lot easier, and this year was definitely much harder than what I was used to."

"Math has been really hard for me here because I didn’t have enough exposure to it before," he said. "But I had a really good teacher, and even though it was difficult and challenging, it was a lot of fun too."

Reynolds agreed with Thompson about the school’s challenging curriculum, "it was a lot more difficult for me to get an A here than at a public school."

Clayton said the school’s curriculum of six core courses English, history, science, math and art without any electives, allows students to really focus and get a lot of knowledge out of each subject.

"It’s a fixed menu, so students can’t take particular classes to slack off," he said. The classes are an hour and a half for each subject, every day. "The schedule is good preparation for college," he said.

But before students can go to college, they have to meet the school’s credit requirements, which can be very challenging for students who enter their junior or senior years, Clayton said. However, he added that this has been the best class in his six-year tenure as principal in meeting the school’s requirements.

"These kids have really put forth a great effort in making sure they’ve done all the necessary work to graduate," he said. "And what’s nice is, that once they’ve graduated, they can apply to college with a complete record, but that also means they can’t slack off in the second semester."

Clayton said that about 80 90 percent of the Winter Sports School students go on to college, and that this class is applying to schools across the country, not just the snow-belt region.

Future plans

Thompson said it feels kind of weird graduating from the Winter Sports School. "I always envisioned that I would graduate with my class in Wyoming, but the kids and teachers here are really great," he said.

Thompson plans on going back to Wyoming to see his family before returning to Utah. He is looking forward to spending the next year skiing, although he might take classes at the University of Utah in the summer.

Vikander will attend the University of Utah this summer as well, but her ultimate goal is to compete in the X Games and make snowboarding a career.

While Stanislaw is not sure if she is going to continue competing after this winter, she does know she always wants skiing to be a part of her life. Her plan is to go to the University of Denver, where she has the option to take winters off to ski.

"They don’t advertise it, but you can take the whole winter off, which means I’ll be able to do what I’ve been doing for the past three years," she said.

Reynolds is applying to a few colleges, but he said he is prepared to defer his enrollment in hopes of making the U.S. Ski Team.

"I am very fortunate to be in the position I am," he said.

It seems like most of the 2007 Winter Sports School graduates feel the same way.

The Ceremony

The Winter Sports School’s graduation was scheduled to be held on Friday, Nov. 16, at 4 p.m. at Prospector Lodge and Conference Center. Eric Heiden, a former long track speed skater, was slated to speak at the ceremony along with seniors Abby Stanislaw, Charlie Reynolds and Erika Vikander.

According to Clayton, the recipient for the Kay Wright Memorial Award, which is given to the outstanding senior who the faculty feels best represents the school, was slated to go to Trine Vik, and Sam Bernhard was chosen to receive the Dave Sieger Memorial Award, which is given to the outstanding student in the study of mathematics and science.

The school also planned to recognize its general student body with awards in each subject area: for mathematics, senior Jennifer Morrison; for science, freshman Carter Martin; for history, junior Taylor Guetschow; for Spanish, sophomore Brandon Booth; for English, junior Dakota Schlag; for art, senior Charlie Lasser; and for community service, sophomore Jessie Delacenserie.


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