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Rowland Hall is thrilled to welcome Colette Smith to Winged Lion Athletics.

Rowland Hall girls soccer head coach Colette Smith.

Colette Smith

Colette joined Rowland Hall in summer 2020 as head coach of the Upper School girls soccer team, taking the reins from longtime coach Bobby Kennedy (BK, to players), who now teaches physical education and coaches girls soccer at Rowland Hall’s Middle School. With her impressive resume, Colette is an ideal successor to BK, who led the Winged Lions to three State Championship victories.

“Colette brings with her a wealth of soccer background, both as a decorated player and as a successful coach,” said Athletics Director Kendra Tomsic. “She has brought on board two equally qualified assistants, Annie Hawkins and Haylee Cacciacarne. Together, this dynamite staff—full of positive energy, enthusiasm, and love of the game—is inspiring our team to a very successful 2020 season.”

To help introduce Colette to the Rowland Hall community, we asked her to play a round of 20 questions. Her answers—lightly edited for style and context—appear below.


1. Welcome to Rowland Hall! This summer you joined our community as head coach of the Upper School girls soccer team. Why did you choose to come to Rowland Hall?

I applied for the job and after the first interview knew it was a special community. I wanted to be a part of something that I believed in, both on a soccer and community level.

2. Soccer has been a major part of your life. How did you first become interested in the sport?

I have four brothers that played. My dad also played soccer, and he and I would go to the park to play. It was the best because we’d just play. He didn’t coach or expect anything. I just followed him with the ball.

3. You’re not new to coaching. You previously assisted Davis High School to three state and two national championships, and you coached the Utah Royals FC Reserves to a runner-up spot in the Women's Premier Soccer League National Championship in their inaugural season. What’s the number-one thing you’ve learned about coaching (so far)?

It’s all about the players. I genuinely care for every player and respect their needs and feedback. My job is to help them be their best. That takes us understanding each other.

4. What do you think is the best thing about coaching at the high school level?

Being with the team almost every day. We are able to implement tactics and build off each game and practice. I also enjoy getting to know the girls. It is a rather quick season, but we spend so much time together and that makes it so much fun.

The girls have learned that they can do hard things. They are sacrificing to be able to play the sport they love. I am incredibly proud of them every day.—Colette Smith, Upper School girls soccer head coach

5. In addition to coaching, you have an impressive background as a player—you played for Brigham Young University, where you captained the team to two West Coast Conference Championships and an NCAA tournament run to the Elite Eight, and you played professionally for Real Salt Lake Women and Utah Royals FC. What moment from your own athletic career are you most proud of?

I am honestly just happy I got to play the game I love competitively for so long.

6. We’ve been hearing a lot about challenges in athletics this fall due to COVID-19, but do you think there are unique opportunities or benefits to this season?

The girls have learned that they can do hard things. They are sacrificing to be able to play the sport they love. I am incredibly proud of them every day.

7. Let’s take a moment to learn a little bit more about who you are off the field. What three words would you use to describe yourself when you’re off duty?

Mom, playful, adventurer.

8. Where’s your happy place?

Outdoors.

9. Where do you want to travel next? (You know, when air travel isn’t quite so scary.)

Greece.

The Rowland Hall girls soccer coaching team looks on at a September 2020 game.

Colette and her coaching staff look on as the Winged Lions play the Logan High School Grizzlies on August 27.

10. What’s your favorite way to unwind at the end of a busy day?

Reading books with my boys.

11. If you could only eat one thing for the rest of your life, what would it be?

Plums.

12. What book do you read over and over?

Atomic Habits by James Clear.

13. What was your favorite subject in high school?

Psychology.

14. What’s your family’s favorite thing to do on the weekend?

Mountain bike.

15. What’s one fun fact about you that you don’t often get to share?

I broke my jaw and had it wired shut.

16. Who’s your favorite soccer player of all time?

Mia Hamm.

17. Is there a sport you enjoy watching or playing besides soccer?

Spikeball and pickleball.

18. Who has been one of the biggest influences in your life?

My husband.

Every action you take is like a vote for the type of person you want to become.—Colette Smith

19. To wrap things up, let’s talk a bit about your goals during your first season at Rowland Hall. We know that playing sports helps young adults build important life skills. What top life skills do you want to help build in your student-athletes this season?

Confidence in themselves and empathy for others.

20. What’s one piece of advice you have learned over your career that you want your players to keep in mind this year?

Every action you take is like a vote for the type of person you want to become.


Update October 26, 2020: In her first season as head coach, Colette led her team to their fourth consecutive State Championship.

Athletics

Twenty Questions with Girls Soccer Head Coach Colette Smith

Rowland Hall is thrilled to welcome Colette Smith to Winged Lion Athletics.

Rowland Hall girls soccer head coach Colette Smith.

Colette Smith

Colette joined Rowland Hall in summer 2020 as head coach of the Upper School girls soccer team, taking the reins from longtime coach Bobby Kennedy (BK, to players), who now teaches physical education and coaches girls soccer at Rowland Hall’s Middle School. With her impressive resume, Colette is an ideal successor to BK, who led the Winged Lions to three State Championship victories.

“Colette brings with her a wealth of soccer background, both as a decorated player and as a successful coach,” said Athletics Director Kendra Tomsic. “She has brought on board two equally qualified assistants, Annie Hawkins and Haylee Cacciacarne. Together, this dynamite staff—full of positive energy, enthusiasm, and love of the game—is inspiring our team to a very successful 2020 season.”

To help introduce Colette to the Rowland Hall community, we asked her to play a round of 20 questions. Her answers—lightly edited for style and context—appear below.


1. Welcome to Rowland Hall! This summer you joined our community as head coach of the Upper School girls soccer team. Why did you choose to come to Rowland Hall?

I applied for the job and after the first interview knew it was a special community. I wanted to be a part of something that I believed in, both on a soccer and community level.

2. Soccer has been a major part of your life. How did you first become interested in the sport?

I have four brothers that played. My dad also played soccer, and he and I would go to the park to play. It was the best because we’d just play. He didn’t coach or expect anything. I just followed him with the ball.

3. You’re not new to coaching. You previously assisted Davis High School to three state and two national championships, and you coached the Utah Royals FC Reserves to a runner-up spot in the Women's Premier Soccer League National Championship in their inaugural season. What’s the number-one thing you’ve learned about coaching (so far)?

It’s all about the players. I genuinely care for every player and respect their needs and feedback. My job is to help them be their best. That takes us understanding each other.

4. What do you think is the best thing about coaching at the high school level?

Being with the team almost every day. We are able to implement tactics and build off each game and practice. I also enjoy getting to know the girls. It is a rather quick season, but we spend so much time together and that makes it so much fun.

The girls have learned that they can do hard things. They are sacrificing to be able to play the sport they love. I am incredibly proud of them every day.—Colette Smith, Upper School girls soccer head coach

5. In addition to coaching, you have an impressive background as a player—you played for Brigham Young University, where you captained the team to two West Coast Conference Championships and an NCAA tournament run to the Elite Eight, and you played professionally for Real Salt Lake Women and Utah Royals FC. What moment from your own athletic career are you most proud of?

I am honestly just happy I got to play the game I love competitively for so long.

6. We’ve been hearing a lot about challenges in athletics this fall due to COVID-19, but do you think there are unique opportunities or benefits to this season?

The girls have learned that they can do hard things. They are sacrificing to be able to play the sport they love. I am incredibly proud of them every day.

7. Let’s take a moment to learn a little bit more about who you are off the field. What three words would you use to describe yourself when you’re off duty?

Mom, playful, adventurer.

8. Where’s your happy place?

Outdoors.

9. Where do you want to travel next? (You know, when air travel isn’t quite so scary.)

Greece.

The Rowland Hall girls soccer coaching team looks on at a September 2020 game.

Colette and her coaching staff look on as the Winged Lions play the Logan High School Grizzlies on August 27.

10. What’s your favorite way to unwind at the end of a busy day?

Reading books with my boys.

11. If you could only eat one thing for the rest of your life, what would it be?

Plums.

12. What book do you read over and over?

Atomic Habits by James Clear.

13. What was your favorite subject in high school?

Psychology.

14. What’s your family’s favorite thing to do on the weekend?

Mountain bike.

15. What’s one fun fact about you that you don’t often get to share?

I broke my jaw and had it wired shut.

16. Who’s your favorite soccer player of all time?

Mia Hamm.

17. Is there a sport you enjoy watching or playing besides soccer?

Spikeball and pickleball.

18. Who has been one of the biggest influences in your life?

My husband.

Every action you take is like a vote for the type of person you want to become.—Colette Smith

19. To wrap things up, let’s talk a bit about your goals during your first season at Rowland Hall. We know that playing sports helps young adults build important life skills. What top life skills do you want to help build in your student-athletes this season?

Confidence in themselves and empathy for others.

20. What’s one piece of advice you have learned over your career that you want your players to keep in mind this year?

Every action you take is like a vote for the type of person you want to become.


Update October 26, 2020: In her first season as head coach, Colette led her team to their fourth consecutive State Championship.

Athletics

Explore More Athletics Stories

Senior Carson Burian running for Rowland Hall track and field.

This month, Rowland Hall senior Carson Burian committed to the University of Alabama’s track & field and cross country team as a distance runner. He will join the NCAA Division I team next fall as a member of the 2021–2022 roster.

Carson’s dedication to cross country has helped set the tone for Rowland Hall’s team since 2017. Though he will doubtlessly be remembered for his many athletic achievements—among them, four first-place finishes at the Region 17 Championships, a four-year membership in First Team 2A All-State, and recognition as Most Valuable Player, 2017–2020—he will also be remembered for his leadership. As a team member and team captain, Carson was instrumental in leading the boys’ team to a third-place finish at the State 2A Championships (2017 and 2018), a first-place team State finish (2019), and a second-place State finish (2020).

“Carson's discipline and conscientious training are beyond compare,” said Dr. Laura Johnson, Rowland Hall’s assistant cross country coach. “He's built upon his native talent through consistent effort, listening to his body, and pushing himself even during off seasons. But what's been more exciting to watch as a coach is his growing self-awareness as a runner. The development of that faculty led Carson to offer feedback to other runners on their training and form, externalizing his focus in a way that's helped to unify and improve our team. I wish him much success at Alabama, in the form of further self-knowledge as well as top finishes.”

Congratulations, Carson!


We asked Carson to share more about his experience at Rowland Hall and what he’s looking forward to as a member of the Crimson Tide. The following interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

Congratulations on signing with Alabama! How does it feel?

It feels great. I cannot thank everybody enough who helped me get where I am. It is extremely relieving, knowing I accomplished what I set out to do freshman year. The feeling I have gained—knowing all the emotions tied with my academics and athletics have paid off at the highest level of NCAA play—is everything I could ask for.

Tell me about your athletic journey up to this point. How did you discover your love of running?

I started cross country in sixth grade; however, I didn’t really have a burning desire to do it. I never trained for any of my three seasons in middle school, and I did not really train that intensely going into high school. However, once I found myself in high school, and competing with remarkable athletes across the country, I realized my love for running, but even more so my love for competing. Once I found the love for both, I didn’t set limits on how far I could go.

You've had an impressive cross country career at Rowland Hall. What is one of your favorite memories of your time here?

I want to let all athletes at small schools know that you are not limited because of your school’s size. It isn’t going to be easy by any means, and you are going to have to put everything you have into it, but you can reach anything you desire.

I have many great memories, but I would have to say my junior year at State was the most memorable. We were the favorites going in, but bad races struck members of the team, leading to an uncertain finish. The pain that I saw some of my teammates go through on the final straightaway was the most pure form of competitive spirit I have seen in my life. The willingness of my teammates to put themselves on the line for a State title, to go through that amount of pain for a trophy, is one of the most respectable things I have experienced, and I am extremely proud to say I was their teammate.

What skills did you build at Rowland Hall—both on the track and in the classroom—that you'll be taking with you to college?

Definitely maturity in every aspect in life. The rigorous academics and elite-level athletics crafted me into a time-efficient student-athlete. I learned how to manage everything I wanted with my athletics, and maintain high levels in each respect.

Is there anything else you'd like to share with the Rowland Hall community?

I want to let all athletes at small schools know that you are not limited because of your school’s size. It isn’t going to be easy by any means, and you are going to have to put everything you have into it, but you can reach anything you desire. I also want to thank Rowland Hall Athletics for supplementing me with help for my recruitment process.

Athletics

Upper School girls soccer coach Colette Smith on the Steiner Campus fields.

Rowland Hall is thrilled to welcome Colette Smith to Winged Lion Athletics.

Rowland Hall girls soccer head coach Colette Smith.

Colette Smith

Colette joined Rowland Hall in summer 2020 as head coach of the Upper School girls soccer team, taking the reins from longtime coach Bobby Kennedy (BK, to players), who now teaches physical education and coaches girls soccer at Rowland Hall’s Middle School. With her impressive resume, Colette is an ideal successor to BK, who led the Winged Lions to three State Championship victories.

“Colette brings with her a wealth of soccer background, both as a decorated player and as a successful coach,” said Athletics Director Kendra Tomsic. “She has brought on board two equally qualified assistants, Annie Hawkins and Haylee Cacciacarne. Together, this dynamite staff—full of positive energy, enthusiasm, and love of the game—is inspiring our team to a very successful 2020 season.”

To help introduce Colette to the Rowland Hall community, we asked her to play a round of 20 questions. Her answers—lightly edited for style and context—appear below.


1. Welcome to Rowland Hall! This summer you joined our community as head coach of the Upper School girls soccer team. Why did you choose to come to Rowland Hall?

I applied for the job and after the first interview knew it was a special community. I wanted to be a part of something that I believed in, both on a soccer and community level.

2. Soccer has been a major part of your life. How did you first become interested in the sport?

I have four brothers that played. My dad also played soccer, and he and I would go to the park to play. It was the best because we’d just play. He didn’t coach or expect anything. I just followed him with the ball.

3. You’re not new to coaching. You previously assisted Davis High School to three state and two national championships, and you coached the Utah Royals FC Reserves to a runner-up spot in the Women's Premier Soccer League National Championship in their inaugural season. What’s the number-one thing you’ve learned about coaching (so far)?

It’s all about the players. I genuinely care for every player and respect their needs and feedback. My job is to help them be their best. That takes us understanding each other.

4. What do you think is the best thing about coaching at the high school level?

Being with the team almost every day. We are able to implement tactics and build off each game and practice. I also enjoy getting to know the girls. It is a rather quick season, but we spend so much time together and that makes it so much fun.

The girls have learned that they can do hard things. They are sacrificing to be able to play the sport they love. I am incredibly proud of them every day.—Colette Smith, Upper School girls soccer head coach

5. In addition to coaching, you have an impressive background as a player—you played for Brigham Young University, where you captained the team to two West Coast Conference Championships and an NCAA tournament run to the Elite Eight, and you played professionally for Real Salt Lake Women and Utah Royals FC. What moment from your own athletic career are you most proud of?

I am honestly just happy I got to play the game I love competitively for so long.

6. We’ve been hearing a lot about challenges in athletics this fall due to COVID-19, but do you think there are unique opportunities or benefits to this season?

The girls have learned that they can do hard things. They are sacrificing to be able to play the sport they love. I am incredibly proud of them every day.

7. Let’s take a moment to learn a little bit more about who you are off the field. What three words would you use to describe yourself when you’re off duty?

Mom, playful, adventurer.

8. Where’s your happy place?

Outdoors.

9. Where do you want to travel next? (You know, when air travel isn’t quite so scary.)

Greece.

The Rowland Hall girls soccer coaching team looks on at a September 2020 game.

Colette and her coaching staff look on as the Winged Lions play the Logan High School Grizzlies on August 27.

10. What’s your favorite way to unwind at the end of a busy day?

Reading books with my boys.

11. If you could only eat one thing for the rest of your life, what would it be?

Plums.

12. What book do you read over and over?

Atomic Habits by James Clear.

13. What was your favorite subject in high school?

Psychology.

14. What’s your family’s favorite thing to do on the weekend?

Mountain bike.

15. What’s one fun fact about you that you don’t often get to share?

I broke my jaw and had it wired shut.

16. Who’s your favorite soccer player of all time?

Mia Hamm.

17. Is there a sport you enjoy watching or playing besides soccer?

Spikeball and pickleball.

18. Who has been one of the biggest influences in your life?

My husband.

Every action you take is like a vote for the type of person you want to become.—Colette Smith

19. To wrap things up, let’s talk a bit about your goals during your first season at Rowland Hall. We know that playing sports helps young adults build important life skills. What top life skills do you want to help build in your student-athletes this season?

Confidence in themselves and empathy for others.

20. What’s one piece of advice you have learned over your career that you want your players to keep in mind this year?

Every action you take is like a vote for the type of person you want to become.


Update October 26, 2020: In her first season as head coach, Colette led her team to their fourth consecutive State Championship.

Athletics

Jada Crockett playing soccer

By Jada Crockett, Class of 2023

This story originally appeared in the January 2020 Rowland Hall Gazette. It has been updated for Fine Print.

Wake up at 6:30, eat breakfast and get ready for school at 7:15, leave for school at 7:25, go to school from 8:15 to 3:05, practice soccer from 6 to 8, get home at 8:30, do homework, eat dinner, and go to bed. 

That is a daily routine for me. Being a student-athlete requires time management, good communication, and organizational skills. We have many things to juggle on our schedules, and we don’t always have a lot of time for friends, family, or schoolwork.

To show how we fit it all in, I interviewed four student-athletes who play soccer at Rowland Hall. I chose to interview soccer players because the sport is played year-round and is very time-consuming. I discovered that they have all learned how to manage their time differently but successfully.


Student:  Camryn Kennedy  
Year:  Sophomore  
Teams:  Rowland Hall, USA Metro  


    


Camryn devotes three and a half hours to soccer practice per week. When I asked her how she manages her time as a student-athlete, she said, “I always put school first.” I am on the same club team as Camryn, and our coach always tells us that we have to put school first, even if as a result we miss practice. I also asked her how being an athlete makes her a better person. She said, “It is easier to communicate. When I am on the field, I talk a lot and I transfer that to everyday life.” I would have to agree with this. We have to talk to our teachers more about missing school, and we talk to many coaches, players, and teammates. It is necessary to talk on the field to tell your teammate what to do, when someone is right behind them, to get wide or to come in closer, or even just, “Good job.” This relates to talking to people in everyday life, because talking on the field makes you more comfortable talking to people outside of sports.


Student:  Aimar Perez
Year:  Freshman
Teams:  Rowland Hall, USA Metro

 

 

Aimar also devotes three and a half hours a week to soccer. She plans ahead in order to manage her time with her crazy schedule. I asked her how she is different from her friends who don’t play sports, and she said, “I don’t hang out with my friends as much as they hang out with each other.” Sports are very time-consuming, and you need to have an organized schedule, which sometimes makes you lose time for your friends. Aimar said that sports give her a different perspective on life.


Student:  Jesus Lamas
Year:  Junior
Teams:  Rowland Hall, La Roca, Olympic Development Program

I think it is easier to be an athlete because you develop more confidence—we are used to the pressure of our sports and many people coming to watch our events. In my opinion, I am not as scared to mess up in front of people because I already have.

    
       
    

Jesus devotes 16 hours a week to his sport. He said that he has developed good time management, and he tries not to waste any free time. “Athletes are more confident, fit, have better mindsets, and are more interesting,” he told me. Staying fit is a key component of being an athlete, and it takes a lot of time. You have to make healthy food choices, practice with your team, and take time to practice on your own. I think it is easier to be an athlete because you develop more confidence—we are used to the pressure of our sports and many people coming to watch our events. In my opinion, I am not as scared to mess up in front of people because I already have. That is also why we have better mindsets. We are under pressure all the time and mess up daily. I think that because of this, we look at the positives and have a better mindset. And athletes are interesting because it is fun to learn about their sports and their backgrounds, like how they started and their inspiration. 


Student:  Mason Schlopy
Year:  Sophomore
Team:  Park City Soccer Club; in addition to soccer, Mason skis for Rowmark Ski Academy


Mason spends around 28 hours a week playing and training for his sports. When I asked Mason how he manages his time, he said, “You have to be efficient when working on school when time is limited. Also, communicating with teachers becomes very important.” He stays busy all of the time and has limited time to hang out with his friends. “Being an athlete has shown me that nothing is given and everything is earned, and that is also relevant in school. Being an athlete has shown me how to be respectful, part of a team, and committed to something that I love.” Commitment is necessary in order to become successful, and a very good trait for life because you have to stay committed in a relationship, to a schedule, and to many more things that you want to devote your time to.


Student-athletes require good time management that can be practiced in many different ways. There are many factors to becoming a successful student-athlete, and people handle it differently. Even though it is stressful at times, I always have enough time to spend with family and friends and to get everything done that I need to. In my opinion, being a student-athlete makes us better in the long run because we have to plan everything early, communicate with more people (including those older than us), stay committed to the important things in our lives, and do work in a limited time.


Top photo: Jada Crockett playing soccer for Rowland Hall.

Athletics

Samantha Paisley skiing uphill.

Rowland Hall’s winter sports program introduced now-junior Samantha Paisley to backcountry skiing in eighth grade. Now, she’s in Lausanne, Switzerland, representing the United States in ski mountaineering—what she describes as “backcountry ski racing”—at the Youth Olympic Games.

This is the first year that ski mountaineering—known as SkiMo—will be included in the Youth Olympic Games (YOG), and the sport may be added to the Winter Olympics in 2026. In Lausanne, Samantha is one of only two US girls and one of 48 total international athletes competing in SkiMo. She’ll race in all three events: the individual on January 10, the sprint on January 13, and the mixed-nations relay—featuring randomly grouped teams of two boys and two girls—on January 14.

A description of the SkiMo events, according to olympic.org:

"Individual races are similar to a marathon, with athletes setting off in a mass start over a course with at least three ascents and descents and up to 1,900m of elevation gain. Races typically last between one-and-a-half and two hours, with at least one ascent where athletes need to remove their skis and climb on foot. As the name suggests, sprint races are much shorter and faster than individual races. The total ascent and descent is usually around 100m, with the fastest athletes completing the course in approximately three minutes. Relay races, meanwhile, feature a team of three or four athletes, with each member of the team completing a short circuit one after the other. Like the sprint, the relay is quite a fast event, with each circuit lasting about 15 minutes and including two ascents and descents."

Samantha Paisley skis uphill with competitors in background.

   Samantha Paisley at the 2019 SkiMo World Championships.

Join us in supporting Samantha and Team USA: Rowland Hall is throwing a YOG SkiMo viewing party (event TBD) at noon on Monday, January 13, in the Larimer Center. We’ll also share Samantha’s results on Twitter as we hear them. A TeamUSA.org article details more ways to keep track of the YOG: check TeamUSA.org/Lausanne2020 or Team USA’s social channels; sign up for the Team USA Daily newsletter; download the Team USA app; or check the Olympic Channel or their app.

We chatted with Samantha before she traveled to Lausanne on January 6, the same day school started up after winter break. She’ll miss two weeks of class to compete in the YOG, but thanks in part to Rowmark Ski Academy, Rowland Hall’s teachers and staff already have the infrastructure to help elite student-athletes succeed.

The following Q&A has been lightly edited for length, style, and context.

How do you explain SkiMo to people who’ve never heard of it?

I usually describe it as backcountry ski racing. You start at the bottom of the mountain with skins on the bottom of your skis, race to the top, take the skins off, ski down, put the skins back on, and race right back up.

How did you get into this sport?

I found it in 2017, the winter of my eighth-grade year. I picked backcountry skiing (chaperoned by teachers Bill Shann and Molly Lewis) for my winter sport and had so much fun! Then my mom—a Snowbird ski-patroller/physician who’d been backcountry skiing for years—took me touring a few more times, and the skiing was incredible. Later that season I saw a flier for the Wasatch Powder Keg, a race at Brighton that covers the entire resort and the backcountry (i.e., Snake Creek and Guardsman Pass). So the next weekend I showed up to the race and got fourth place.

I even had a chance to use my Chinese mid-race—as I passed the athlete from China, I said some words of encouragement. After the race, she came up to me and we had a whole conversation in Chinese.—Junior Samantha Paisley

In March you competed in the World Championships in Villars, Switzerland. How did that go?

I finished as the 12th woman under age 17. It was such a neat experience. I learned so much about racing, balancing my school work, and standing up for myself. I became friends with the junior overall world champion, Katia from Russia, and we’re now pen pals. I even had a chance to use my Chinese mid-race—as I passed the athlete from China, I said some words of encouragement. After the race, she came up to me and we had a whole conversation in Chinese.

How did you qualify for the YOG?

The only race we’ve had this season was the Youth Olympic Qualifiers in Eldora, Colorado, where I ranked second overall (I got third in the individual and first in the sprint). My time in the sprint ranked me as the second-fastest woman of that day—the same day as the national championships for the elite men and women. So there was some pretty tough competition.

Samantha Paisley on top of SkiMo podium.

Samantha Paisley in the top podium spot for the sprint at the Youth Olympic Qualifiers in Colorado.

How does it feel to be representing your country in the YOG? And doing so during SkiMo’s debut?

It’s crazy! I can’t believe that out of all the youth athletes, I get to go. This sport is becoming more and more competitive and it feels surreal to be a part of such a monumental moment in SkiMo history. I’m also excited to meet people from other countries and watch some events. I’m very excited to see figure skating. 

When you get into the right headspace and feel confident, ignore everything else, and push yourself to go as fast as you can, it’s the best feeling in the world.

SkiMo is known as a grueling sport—is that true? Why have you continued to compete at such an advanced level? What drives you?

Honestly, the sport is very, very physically intense, but the hardest part is the mental component. It’s easy to give up quickly and it’s also easy to give up when you get passed by someone. Because of the length of the courses, you don’t move as quickly as if you were running or biking, and that can get frustrating. Therefore, no matter your physical fitness, if you aren’t in the right headspace it’s hard to do well. On the flip side, when you get into that headspace and feel confident, ignore everything else, and push yourself to go as fast as you can, it’s the best feeling in the world. 

I love this sport because all ages usually compete at the same time. It’s awesome because I get to train and race with incredible women and men who’ve not only raced the world circuit and done well, but also maintained full-time careers and balanced their lives well. It’s unreal that I have the mentors I have. And it’s also cool because there are a lot of young kids who look up to me on my Silver Fork SkiMo team, and I can be a role model and mentor to them.

What’s your training like?

I train everywhere I can. The beauty of SkiMo is that as long as you’re traveling uphill, you’re training. So, I spend my days hiking, running, biking, and skiing. I also joined Utah Crew and spend the spring, summer, and fall training with them. 

In the winter, I work out indoors once or twice a week. Cross-training is a big part of my philosophy because doing only one activity intensely can result in injury; it’s important to use muscles other than the ones specific to your sport. My SkiMo practice consists of two or three days of endurance—I often get 4,000 to 5,000 vertical feet in, which is about eight to 10 miles, depending on the location. I do sprint/interval work three times a week, and one of those days I do a crew workout. I take one or two days off to rest, mainly to catch up on sleep, do homework, and study for tests and quizzes.

Where do you hope to go with the sport—can you do it at the college level? Beyond? The 2026 Olympics?

After the YOG my goal is to qualify again for the US National Team and return to Europe to race in the World Championships in 2021. I also hope to ski in college—wherever I go, I want to start a team if there isn’t one. But I haven’t thought about my SkiMo future a lot. I like to live in the moment and set small goals—especially in such an intense sport, it’s hard to have a lot of lofty goals without losing perspective. I do have a national teammate, Grace Staberg, who is a senior in high school and is over in Europe for the rest of the school year racing the World Cup series. I wouldn’t be opposed to that.


Top photo: Samantha Paisley making the first ascent in the individual event at the World Championships in Villars, Switzerland, on March 11.

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