Emily Siegel ‘16 skis for St. Lawrence University, a NCAA Division I Nordic ski team. When Emily joined Community School as a sixth grader, she was already competing as a Nordic athlete for Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation (SVSEF). As an Upper School Sun Valley Ski Academy student-athlete, Emily competed as a Nordic racer for SVSEF and pursued academic, Outdoor Program, and extracurricular offerings at Community School. Here, she shares a bit about her experience and her journey as a collegiate athlete.
Q. As a high school athlete, what did you most enjoy about skiing, competing, and the community of the program?
A. I love to compete, and I love the discipline it gave me to prioritize the things that were important to me—school and nordic skiing. I really felt that I had found my tribe.
Q. What, if any, were the challenges you experienced as you managed competitive skiing and your academic load in high school?
A. Managing time was a challenge, but I was thankful for the opportunity to learn how to do that. I think that this was the hardest thing because I played a sport each season so there was never a time in high school when I was not on the road. In the fall, I would be on the road for soccer and working with teachers to get everything done. In winter it was nordic, and in the spring I played tennis.
Q. What do you feel were the benefits of SVSA to your academic and athletic life in high school?
A. SVSA Program Director Jonna Mendes provided training calendars that helped with scheduling academic work and helped with tutoring when we were traveling, which was really great.
Q. What do you feel sets the ski and academic experience apart as an SVSA student-athlete at Community School?
A. The support that students are provided in both athletics and the academics is unique; I couldn’t have done it without this program. The coaches and the teachers are some of the best in the country and have always taught me to be the best that I could be. They have also helped me to achieve my goals both academically and in nordic racing.
Q. How did your collegiate career evolve? Did you apply knowing you wanted to ski in college? Did that determine your college choice?
A. I really wanted to ski in college more than anything else, but I tore my ACL playing soccer and almost gave up on my college career. My parents and I emailed lots of schools that had a Nordic team and went to every team that would talk to us. I also applied to other schools where I would not be able to race.
Ultimately, I really hit it off with Saint Lawrence University (SLU) coaches Ethan Townsend (Head Coach) and Elizabeth Peterson (Assistant Coach, now coaching for Endurance United). The SLU team had an open spot, and I was offered a place on the team. Skiing at SLU has been the best experience; I love the team and the coaches. I feel so grateful that all of my work and dedication throughout high school paid off. This is truly the best college career I could have envisioned, with the right balance of academics and skiing at the collegiate level.
Q. As a collegiate athlete, do you find you call on lasting lessons of your experience at Community School and SVSA? If so, what stands out?
A. Yes, I still talk to my SVSEF coaches and trainers and to SVSA Program Director Jonna Mendes for guidance now that I’m skiing at the college level, and they never fail to deliver support. I’ve also found that, in college, being able to talk to teachers and advocate for myself—something I learned as a Community School student—has been a big key to success as a collegiate athlete. Last winter I was on the road every Friday for five weeks at the beginning of the semester, which was pretty challenging because it meant missing quizzes in both chemistry and biology. My ability to talk to my professors and devise a plan that allowed me to take the quizzes on the road was essential.
Q. If you were to speak with a skier considering Community School as a place to follow their passion for skiing and engage in academics, what would you tell them about the school, community, and skiing?
A. As an SVSA student-athlete, you will get the perfect combination of athletics and academics in an amazing school and benefit from resources you can access the rest of your life—once a Cutthroat, always a Cutthroat. I also always loved how the Outdoor Program was such a part of our lives at Community School, I made some of my best memories outside of the nordic team through the Outdoor Program.
Q. Any tips for current SVSA students engaged in the college search process who are considering skiing in college?
A. Pursue your passion; you never know when a team will have an opening, so fill out a recruitment form! It was a dream of mine to ski in college, and I feel that Community School and my persistence made that happen. If you are trying to ski in college or play any sport in college, talk with the coaches in September or August. Keep being persistent in updating them with your results because most of the time they are too busy to look them up themselves, and it also shows you're interested in the school.
Also, the best piece of advice I received during my college search came from SVSEF Nordic Head Coach Rick Kapala, who told me that when I was deciding on a college where I could compete as a skier, that I should make sure I love the school itself and not just the team. It was great advice because even if you’re entering school with the intention to ski all four years, you may ultimately decide to stop competing, so it’s best to go to school that you love beyond the opportunity it provides to ski and compete.