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Winter School graduates 21

Jared Whitley Of the Record staff
Graduates are (left to right, boys) Bill Fleming, Santiago Allende, Eric Davis, Mike Wallman, Jeremy Elliot, Barrett Dewald, A. J. Avrin, Taggart Spenst, Sam Burke, Ben Pillmore, Evan Spong, John Marks,
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While most local students are eager for Thanksgiving break, some Park City teens are already ending their school year.

The Winter Sports School, a private school located at the Utah Olympic Park in Bear Hollow, finished its year this week, graduating 21 seniors. The school’s academic year runs from April to November so its students, primarily winter athletes, have the season off to ski or otherwise train and compete.

"It’s really helpful in the winter when you’re trying to compete," said Megan McJames, who has attended the school since her freshman year. "The whole thing was pretty fun."

Corrine Rotter is an alpine ski racer who plans to attend Denver University or the University of Colorado at Boulder. She enjoys the competition of ski racing and wants to make the U.S. Ski Team and possibly compete in the Olympics.

"I’m very excited," she said.

A.J. Avrin is an alpine ski racer whose family moved to Park City five years ago. He plans to focus on skiing for a couple of years before attending college.

For his sport "there aren’t really any sacrifices in my mind," Avrin said, because it’s so exciting.

Not all the athletes pursue winter sports. Barrett Dewald focuses on his golf during the school’s five off months. Hilary Wright is a mountain-bike racer who attended Park City High School before starting at the school. Although she competes when the weather is warm, the winter school’s flexibility is better than having the summer off.

"This school actually works with you missing school," Wright said.

Free-ride skier Evan Spong is from Seattle and boards in Utah to attend the school. He finished his junior year of high school in the Emerald City, took a week off, then moved and started at the Winter Sports School.

"That’s what I came out here to do," Spong said. "It was rough, but it’s worth it after (graduation)."

The graduating class of 21 is about one-third of the school’s total student body.

"It’s not big, but it’s not huge, which is great," Clayton said.

Private schools nationwide see an average yearly attrition of 15 percent, Clayton reported. This year, the Winter Sports School had 100 percent retention from the 2004 class.

"It’s absolutely remarkable," Clayton said. "Once you commit to the program and it works so well, there’s no real reason to leave it."

Since the school year ends in November, a student would have to wait until the following August to start up again in a school that follows the traditional school calendar, Clayton said.

"They’re hesitant to take the plunge, but it works so well for them, there’s no reason to leave," Clayton said. Senior prank

For their senior prank, the graduates removed the top deck and door off of one of the school’s three buildings, parked a car there, and put everything back together.

"It was a group effort," McJames said. "Good teamwork building."

Clayton is going to leave the car in the building and assign next year’s class to get it out as a teamwork building exercise.

"They did a remarkable job," Clayton said. "Didn’t break a thing."


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