Iola’s Jessie Taylor is taking a giant step forward in her ski-jumping career.
The 15-year-old has been accepted to attend the Lowell Whiteman School in Steamboat Springs, Colo., for her sophomore year of high school. The private boarding school works with competitive athletes to give them the best education possible while allowing them flexibility to train and compete.
Many Olympic athletes have attended this high school, including Johnny Spillane, a three-time silver medalist in ski jumping and Nordic combined at the 2010 Winter Olympics.
“I’m really excited,” Taylor said. “It seems like a really cool school. Everyone is an athlete, so you already have something in common with all of the students. Skiing is just what everyone does there.”
Taylor loves skiing, but also loves school.
“Skiing has always been important to me,” she said. “Now I can take it seriously. I get to ski a bunch and the school will also be lots of fun.”
Her parents, Denise and Greg Taylor, said their daughter would not be where she is today without support from the Iola Winter Sports Club. They credited the efforts of the volunteers that physically keep the jumps maintained and the volunteers that help the club with fund-raising so young skiers don’t have to pay for equipment as they learn to ski.
“Without them, Jessie would never have even started ski jumping, much less be where she is today,” they said. “IWSC is an excellent club and learning how to ski jump gives kids confidence in all areas of their life.”
Taylor trained with the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club in Colorado this summer from June 7 to July 31. She also competed in the women’s 90-meter competition at the Springer Tournee and U.S. Nationals tournament July 28-30 in Park City, Utah.
The ski jumps in Park City were built for and used in the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics. While in Utah, Taylor also trained on the 120-meter hill, known as the “large hill” during the Olympic ski jumping events. The “normal hill” is the 90-meter hill.
Taylor is looking forward to new challenges in Colorado. Being a straight-A student, she received a partial scholarship to attend Lowell Whitman on its “ski and ride” program.
“This is just the logical next step for Jessie,” Denise Taylor said. “It will get her consistent coaching for her advanced skill level. It’s a very developed program with coaches who have proven credentials.”
Jessie leaves home Aug. 21.
“It will be hard to have her so far away, but we are very proud of her accomplishments that have led her to this opportunity,” her parents said. “We can support her, but she still has to do the hard part.”
Taylor’s next goal is to compete in the Junior Worlds in Otepaa, Estonia, this winter. Her long-term goal is to eventually compete in the Olympics. Hopefully, women ski jumpers will be included in the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia.
“I want to be on the women’s USA ski-jumping team,” Taylor said. “Then, I will be ready when they are finally allowed to compete in the Olympics.”