Lake Tahoe high school alpinists balance schoolwork with training, races |

Lake Tahoe high school alpinists balance schoolwork with training, races

South Tahoe senior Lyndsey Allen makes her way down a slalom course earlier this season.
Harry Lefrak / Lefrak Photography |

While class is in session, skiers from South Tahoe and George Whittell high schools are carving down the slopes a few times per week.

They’re missing class, but they’re not skipping schoolwork. Every missed assignment must be made up. Every missed test must eventually be taken.

“You can either get it in advance from some teachers, but sometimes you get it when you come back,” said South Tahoe senior Lyndsey Allen. “You just have to manage your time and make it up.”

South Tahoe gets on a school bus and trains twice per week in the afternoon on Sierra-at-Tahoe slopes, which Vikings head coach Barbra Bedwell immensely appreciates.

“We’re fortunate that the school district provides transportation for us, we’re really thankful to have that,” Bedwell said.

Whittell athletes make their own way to Heavenly Mountain Resort for afternoon practice at least once per week.

Missing a class in the afternoon may not be critical, but on race days, they miss the entire day. Meets traditionally start at 10 a.m.

Allen says freshmen and sophomores try and get physical education late in the day, or fourth block, so they’re not missing a more time-intensive class and homework. For juniors and seniors, Allen says she takes a lighter class, a course she can “kind of” do at home.

“The frosh and soph kids at the beginning of the year sign up for ski PE and some upperclassmen have to leave a class early or miss it and they have to make arrangements with their teachers,” Bedwell said.

Studying, exams and racing all came to a head recently when most high schools had final exams. A Tahoe Basin Ski League race at Heavenly was pushed back from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. to make it easier for coaches/teachers and athletes. Resort officials rolled with the change.

One school, Truckee, didn’t make it to the meet. And several other schools had less representation than normal, with some fielding a team of just two or three athletes in a sport where four count toward the overall team score.

It was a mad dash to get from school to the slopes.

“It was a little tough because I missed my first two days of finals because I was in Utah racing for my club team,” said Whittell senior Payton Norton. “I came back, took my finals and right after finals we went to the race.”

Norton misses more school than most. He competes with his Utah-based club team and while on the road, he hides in his hotel room and pulls out the books. He has to try and teach himself. He can’t raise his hand to ask a question. Well, he can, but he’s not going to get called on sitting at a desk in a hotel room. Professor Google might his best resource.

“A lot of kids I race with go to an academy and they’re already out of high school,” said Norton, who meets with his instructors before so he can take his work on the road. “A lot of them don’t have the same workload as me so I have to separate myself from them when we get back to the hotel room or wherever and do my homework. It’s not easy.”

For South Tahoe’s Luke Allen, it’s no big deal. It’s part of what he has to do to compete in the sport he loves.

“I just catch up on it the next day,” said Allen, a 4.2-grade point average student. “I just talk to my teachers and make it up. It’s not too difficult. I just get it done.”

And then there’s the ribbing that the athletes get from their friends and classmates when they show up to school after missing so much time.

“When you come back from a long trip you’re thinking maybe they’ll say, ‘Hey, it’s nice to see you,’” Norton explained. “But no, when I come back, they’re like, ‘Wow, you’re here, what’s up?’ ”

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