Stratton Mountain Students Root For Alums

02/19/10 7:34AM By Susan Keese
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AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill

(Host) Vermonters have had plenty of local heroes to root for in the 2010 Winter Olympics. Many are alumni of the state's eight snow sports academies.

The Stratton Mountain School has Five alumni competing in this year's games. So far the results have included a couple of big disappointments.

But for the students coming up behind this year's Olympians, it's all part of learning to live the life of a committed athlete.

VPR's Susan Keese reports.

(Students) "Yeah Louie! Whistles and cheers." 

(Keese) A dozen or so young snowboarders sprawl in a lounge in one of the Stratton Mountain School's yellow clapboard buildings. They're watching the Olympics on a big screen TV.

Check out the VPR/NPR Olympics coverage page

Some have brought their laptops, to study between events. Learning to use down time is one of the lessons at this school, where students have to perform academically even while travelling to competitions.

But nobody's studying now.

(Firl) "C'mon Louie" 

(Keese) Louie Vito, a Columbus native and a 2006 SMS graduate, is going through his moves in the halfpipe final. He ends with an impressive three and a half turn rotation 15 feet in the air.

(Loud cheers)

(Keese) For a while Vito is in third place, but ultimately places fifth, which the kids say is a great finish.

Earlier in the day the school's cross country skiers learned about the fall that dashed the hopes of Nordic racer Andy Newell of Shaftsbury for a medal in his big event. 

(Sound of equipment)

Caldwell spoke to us while working with his skiers in the traning room between afternoon classes and the evening meal. He directs the Nordic program at the school, and is Newell's former coach.  

(Caldwell) "He would be the last person you'd expect to fall because he's so good on his skis and has such a feel for the snow. It's tough, but you know, hopefully he'll get his head together and do well  in a few other races and  the rest of the season."

(Keese) Newell a 2002 graduate, often comes back to train with Caldwell's students when he's home.

(DeSantis) "It's kind of like having a wonderful big brother who's very famous, and I think they all just look up to him to pattern their commitment to their sport."

(Keese) Margaret DeSantis is the school's Dean of Studies.

She compares Stratton Mountain School to special music or performing arts school. It's a place where student athletes with promise and a strong work ethic can pursue their passion and see where it takes them.

Learning how to face the bad days is part of  the curriculum. Snowboard coach Dave Redden says students who can't take failure won't succeed.

(Redden) "These kids compete evry weekend from after Christmas to the first week in April. And by having a contest every week or two you learn to shake it off and realize that no one contest makes or breaks what an athlete you are."

(Keese) Stratton alumna Lindsey Jacobellis was a gold medal favorite in the snowboard cross. Some observers say she's the best snowboard cross competitor in the sports history.

But after she hit a gate and failed to qualify she told reporters, ‘It's only another race.'

For VPR News, I'm Susan Keese.

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