The Winter Sports School: Not the Typical Experience

The following is an excerpt from an article published at www.parkrecord.com:

At 4:1, one Park City secondary school could well be renowned for its student/teacher ratio. But that’s overshadowed by another claim: its 38:1 student/Olympic medal ratio.

The Winter Sports School a year-round alternative for high school students who want to prepare for college while balancing the demands of their athletic schedules enjoyed a banner year at the 2010 Olympics. Graduate Steven Holcomb (Class of ’97) won gold in four-man bobsled, Julia Mancuso (’00) added two silvers to her 2006 giant slalom gold, and Andrew Weibrecht (’03) stunned the ski-racing world with super-G bronze.

“It’s been unbelievable,” said the school’s head, Rob Clayton. “The Olympics were huge for us.”

As if that wasn’t legacy enough, 2006 combined gold medalist Ted Ligety (’02) just wrapped up his second overall FIS World Cup GS title, and a roll call in one of the school’s current 20-person classes sounds like a “who’s who” of youth winter sports in the United States.

“It makes for a great work environment, because everybody’s carrying a passion,” said Clayton, who cautioned readers:

“Our name is kind of tricky. We educate athletes; we don’t train them.”

For parent J.D. Christensen, whose son Joss was named one of the 20 best skiers 18 and under by Powder Magazine along with ’09 classmate Alex Schlopy, enrolling was a no-brainer. Recently returned from competing in Europe and a photo shoot with Spyder in Aspen, Colo., Joss will attend the University of Utah after four years at the school.

“It worked out really well for us,” J.D. Christensen said. “Our local schools don’t really accommodate students taking off weeks at a time.”

At the Winter Sports School, they understand. Current senior Adam Callister owns national junior records in short-track speedskating at both 1,000 meters and 1,500 meters. Fellow senior J.J. Tomlinson is a snowboardcross standout who finished fifth at X Games in Aspen at the end of January. Sophomore Nicolas Veth was the overall J-III Junior Olympic alpine champion at Vail this month.

Clayton said the student body’s many accolades are fun to follow, but his primary focus is to facilitate a full course load for athletes when they return from competing. Of the 230 graduates the school has produced since opening in 1994 (it has a capacity of about 60 students), more than 90 percent have gone on to attend college, Clayton said.

Class begins April 12 on the campus at Utah Olympic Park, and the school year will end in mid-November. Clayton said the four-year school has a unique makeup with more seniors than juniors, juniors than sophomores, and sophomores than freshmen.

“Once they come here, they usually stay,” he explained.

Click here to read the entire article.

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