Winter Sports School’s graduation includes indoor sport climbers, first time in its history

PARK CITY, Utah — The Winter Sports School (WSS) will hold its graduation ceremony on Friday, November 18, at 2:30 p.m. at High Star Ranch’s Dejoria Center in Kamas for its 32 graduates representing Utah, Vermont, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania.

The accredited charter school’s unique schedule runs from April through November to allow a focus on elite sports participation. Most high school students know plans post-graduation, while WSS students won’t know about their college acceptances until March 2023. Some will defer to pursue athletic careers full-time or work on their accumulated results-based points systems to try and qualify to ski in college. Two WSS graduates are on the U.S. Freeski Rookie team, Bella Bacon and Jay Riccomini.

The Winter Sports School accommodates 16 different winter sport disciplines, yet it’s had a handful of summer athletes, like this year’s graduation of the first indoor sport climbers in its history. Sammy Thompson and Elias Murcko.

It’s not uncommon for seniors to miss ‘walking’ in the local milestone ceremony due to their commitment to international competition. For example, the Class of 2022’s Student Body President, Slader Rodman, will be delivering his valedictorian-like speech (the WSS purposely doesn’t rank students) virtually via video as he’ll actually be in Sweden skiing.

Head of School Tess Miner-Farra explained that the 2022 graduates have plans to attend two-year and four-year colleges in the U.S.; a few are looking to go to college abroad, and one is applying to U.S. Service Academies.

Since 2020, WSS graduates have gone on to college at a wide variety of institutions, including Bard College, Brandeis University, University of Utah  Honors College, Babson College, Bates College, Colby College, University of Denver, CU Boulder, UC  Berkeley, UCLA, Stanford University, and Williams College.

“Whenever we get to the end of our school year it’s always bittersweet. As is the case in previous years, we are incredibly proud of our students graduating this year for both their academic and athletic successes thus far. We look to their futures with great optimism whether it be filled with Olympic and World Cup glory, or academic excellence and prestige–in some cases it might be both. Although I personally hope and believe that our graduates are well prepared to embark on life after high school, it doesn’t make it any less sad for me to say “Good bye” next week,” said Alex Burlacu, WSS Math and Physics Teacher who is pursuing his post-graduate degree while working as a ski instructor when the WSS isn’t in session.

Twenty years ago, the four-year High School was originally a private school located at the Utah Olympic Park. After studying the standard curriculum as well as art, languages, electives, and honors classes, WSS alums have gone on to compete in and collect medals from world cups, world championships, and the Olympics.

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