Community School has always educated talented winter sport student-athletes who put the tremendous resources of the school’s extended ‘campus’ –– Bald Mountain, Dollar Mountain, and endless cross country trails –– to good use. Today, with the support and programmatic structure of the Sun Valley Ski Academy (SVSA), now in its sixth year, it is no wonder our student-athletes are going on to accomplish great things, including a record number of skiers competing in college.
This fall, eight student-athletes from the Class of 2016 will ski collegiately, with five entering Division I NCAA programs and three competing as part of the United States Collegiate Ski Association (USCSA). “We are very proud of the Class of 2016 SVSA student-athletes who achieved so much not only in the classroom but also in their athletic endeavors,” said Bags Brokaw, Director of College Counseling.
Competing while balancing academics at the collegiate level takes tremendous dedication. As they begin their college search, SVSA student-athletes must weigh and balance the pros and cons of schools that interest them, including the ‘fit’ of the ski programs. Bags, fellow college counselor Chauncy Pogue, and the Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation (SVSEF) coaching staff are very involved in this process. Will Snyder, who will attend Williams College after taking a gap year to compete explained, Nate Schwing (Head SVSEF PG/FIS Coach) gave me all the information about each schools’ ski team and FIS statistics. Bags gave me direction based on my grades and test scores, that combined with my FIS points, helped me focus my efforts on where I should shoot for. He was very helpful coordinating my college admissions process with me.”
Max Polito and his family moved to the area from Jackson Hole specifically to participate in the SVSA program with the goal of continuing his cross country career in college. His mother, Kelly McCloskey, said they appreciated all the support they received from the college counseling office and noted that the ‘Senior College Week’ in late September, a chance to visit campuses and speak to coaches, was pivotal in her son’s decision to first apply, and then commit to ski at Middlebury College in Vermont. “Max had an opportunity to visit schools while they were in session and while college applications and decisions were clearly on his mind,” she said.
For cross country athletes, SVSEF coach Rick Kapala is also instrumental in choosing the right collegiate program. When advising his athletes, Kapala emphasizes the importance of choosing the right campus character in order to find balance with athletics. “I always say to the skiers to pick a school where if it happens that you might not end up skiing in a few years, you still love the school,” he said. “The reason being that it is then more likely that you will also have a great ski experience as well because the academics and athletics will complement each other.” Kelly added, “Rick was super helpful in talking with Max about what he should expect; about different teams, coaching styles, and strategies out there in the collegiate skiing world.”
Building relationships with colleges has been, and will continue to be, an essential goal of the SVSA program. Every year, Program Director Jonna Mendes travels and meets with college coaches to promote Community School’s unique blend of academics and athletics. “For the past three years, I have been working my way through a list of colleges and universities that we think could be a good match for our student-athletes who wish to ski collegiately, whether that would be Division 1 or USCSA. I tour the campus, meet with ski coaches, and consider what each school might offer our skiers and snowboarders. We are building strong relationships with many schools. This year, we had a record number of three SVSA graduates accepted to St. Lawrence (Ruby Marden, Ella Pepin, and Emily Siegel), making this university a must-stop for me and my travels,” said Jonna.
Though some members of the Class of 2016 will matriculate to perennial Community School favorites, including Bates (Leo Lukens) and Middlebury College (Max Polito and Annika Landis), Griffin Curtis, Kristian DeWolfe, and Hunter Kern are paving the way for future Cutthroats as the first from Community School to ski for Clarkson University, Rocky Mountain College, and Worcester Polytechnic Institute, respectively. “As our program grows stronger, the more student-athletes who will aspire to compete collegiately, and that doesn’t always mean at the Division I level,” Jonna said. “Griffin, Kristian, and Hunter are going to be trailblazers for us with their three ski programs.”
Jonna concluded, “While this year has been our most successful to date with college placement, moving toward these strong relationships has been part of SVSA’s strategic plan for several years. As a relatively new ski academy, it is important that colleges are aware of what we are doing and why our student-athletes are prepared for the rigors of collegiate competition. I am confident our student-athletes will be extremely prepared and motivated college students and team members at their respective schools.”
Will’s father, Cordy Snyder ‘84, acknowledged the fusion of academics and athletics his son and his classmates received at Community School during the intense winter months. “Students need to be advocates for themselves and work with the faculty to develop an academic plan,” he said. “SVSEF’s coaching staff has also been top notch in creating an environment and giving young athletes the skills and confidence to compete at the national and collegiate levels.”
“I know deep down that I will be just fine because I have been so well prepared by my parents, the faculty, and SVSEF’s cross country program,” said Annika Landis ‘16, who will compete for Middlebury College. “I have learned how to balance ski training, family, academics, and work. In essence, I have learned how to develop the ‘whole person’ as opposed to just the intellectual, or just the athlete; and that will be extremely valuable as I move forward.”
By Annie Pokorny ’11