Five Stratton Mountain School athletes named to Olympic Teams

Posted By: The Ski Channel on February 4, 2010 7:35 am

Jacobellis, Newell, Vito, Freeman and Brown are Vancouver bound

STRATTON MOUNTAIN, VT—Five Stratton Mountain School (SMS) alumni were named to 2010 Olympic Teams. Lindsey Jacobellis (SMS ’03), Andy Newell (SMS ’02), Louie Vito (SMS ’06) and Kris Freeman (SMS ’99 – winter term) will represent the United States while Kendall Brown (SMS ’08 – winter term) will represent New Zealand during the Olympic Games on February 12-28, 2010. SMS has had more than 52 placements on Olympic Teams in its short history, and more than 88 SMS student athletes have been named to National Teams. 
Going into her second Olympics, Lindsey Jacobellis is considered one of the best female snowboardcross (SBX) riders in history. She captured her 20th World Cup title this year, which marks her as the most successful rider in SBX history, male or female. Most recently, she clinched her third straight XGames SBX title. In 2006, Jacobellis represented the U.S. Olympic Team for the first time and took home her first Olympic medal, a second place finish in Torino. She will head to Vancouver, wiser and older, with the hope to finish with another Olympic medal.
Currently ranked fourth in Sprints in the FIS point standings, Andy Newell will enter into his second Olympic games with all cylinders firing. In this year alone, he has finished top-10 in four World Cup competitions: three individual events and one team event. Newell became the first U.S. Cross Country skier in 13 years to reach the podium in a World Cup race, doing so in China in March of 2006. During the 2006 Olympics, Andy finished 16th in the individual Sprint Final and 13th in the Sprint Relay, marking the best American time in the competition. He has since remained true to his Stratton roots by staying close to SMS and continuing to work with racers who hope to follow in his footsteps.
Louie Vito will surely take the stage in the Halfpipe in his first Olympic appearance. Earlier this year, Vito and his exuberant personality became the latest in the long line of Olympians to star in ABC’s reality hit ‘Dancing with the Stars.’ The U.S. Open regular and 2009 U.S. Grand Prix champion already earned two podiums this year in Olympic-qualifying Grand Prix competitions. To earn his second place finish at Mammoth Mountain’s Grand Prix, Vito put together a ride with a double cork, cab double cork, air, backside 9, frontside air. In Copper, during the opening Grand Prix event, he walked away with second place, making him a sure contender for this year’s Olympic medals.
The fourth former SMS student athlete, Kris Freeman, is in the medal hunt for three cross-country events. This season, he took home his 13th national title when he won the 15k race at the U.S. Championships this year, skiing along several SMS cross-country athletes. He, too, boasts a best American time since 1983, with his fourth-place finish in November of 2009 in a Finland World Cup event. 
In addition to four U.S. Olympians, Kendall Brown will represent New Zealand in Vancouver. She finished 25th in the Halfpipe in Torino and is heading into her second Olympics at the very young age of 20. Brown competed in her first World Cup Halfpipe competition in 2004, at the age of 14 and had the best finish for the New Zealand National Team, placing 13th, in the latest World Cup competition in Austria. Kendall had been a part of New Zealand Development Team for more than four years, and this year, she was officially named to the New Zealand National Team.
Lastly, another SMS athlete, Danny Davis (SMS ’06), qualified for the Olympic team this year. However, due to his unfortunate accident, he won’t be able to compete.
All six of these athletes are part of a nearly four-decade legacy at SMS that caters to elite athletes as they strive to reach their own personal goals. And for those athletes who might not end up on a National Team, nearly all end up at prestigious colleges and universities nationwide, making it a truly unique institution.
“The combination of highly qualified teachers and coaches with experience at the highest level of competition gives our student athletes an edge,” Headmaster Christopher G. Kaltsas said. “SMS alumni have not only matriculated to Dartmouth, Middlebury, Brown and Williams, they have also achieved success in all manner of professions, from medicine to Wall Street.
And despite all the athletic success, Stratton Mountain provides athletes like Jacobellis with a sense of comfort. When not training and traveling, she could be found wandering the halls at her alma mater, relaxing at Grizzly’s, or driving a Snow CAT with the Stratton Mountain groomers.
“Stratton means home to me and just a friendly face,” Jacobellis said. “I know everyone here, so anytime I turn a corner, I’m always running into somebody I know. It’s a pretty cool feeling, to have such history in one place.”
According to Alex Lehmann, SMS Dean of Faculty and Head of College Guidance, Jacobellis is always working to improve herself, academically and professionally. She recently stopped by SMS to inquire about what her alma mater was doing for textbooks. Additionally, her “Win a ride with Lindsey” auction item is always one of the biggest items at the school’s annual Winter Ball fundraiser.
“It’s pretty cool to go back there as an alum and see my picture on the wall,” Jacobellis said. “To be a part of a school like that, it’s a pretty unique experience. Not everyone gets to have that, so I’m very fortunate to be a part of that situation.”
Lehmann also worked closely with second-time Olympian Andy Newell. During the college acceptance process, Lehmann insisted Newell shy away from writing an essay about skiing and encouraged him to write about a different experience. Newell did it anyway, touching on his rigorous routine and all the hard work that went into pursuing his dream.
“I was really impressed,” Lehmann said. “Not only is he a really good writer, but he gave the reader an understanding of his work ethic and his passion. You could see he really understood what it was all about.”
He has since remained an inspiration to the young Nordic racers around SMS and continues to find time to spend with the SMS family.
“We have a saying, once a Stratton skier, always a Stratton skier,” said SMS Nordic Program Director Sverre Caldwell. “Andy understands that. Obviously it helps us having him around a lot more than it helps him.”
Andy has gone on to post the best American results internationally, including the first U.S. podium in more than two decades. He won a silver medal at a World Cup race in Finland in 2008 and has consistently been a top 10 presence on the sprint circuit.
Newell isn’t without his SMS ties, specifically in film production and freestyle antics. X Ski Films has churned out three full-length features: Generation X-Ski (2002), American Skier (2004) and A Day in the Life (2008). The aim of his work to show that cross-country skiing has the cool and flashy elements of Winter X sports his fellow classmates have made a name for themselves in.
“I’ve spent a lot of time in the air on my cross-country skis,” Newell told NBC. “My classmates had their boards and Alpine skis, and I had my cross-country gear and we’d go out and hit the half pipe and do all that kind of stuff. I learned to do tricks on cross country skis.”
But those videos certainly pale in comparison to the videos one might find by doing a YouTube search on Louie Vito.
The 21 year-old from Ohio became the latest in the long line of Olympians to take on ABC’s reality hit ‘Dancing with the Stars’, joining fellow 2010 Olympic teammate Apolo Anton Ohno as participants. Vito balanced his former gymnastic skills with his dance partner Chelsie Hightower, as the pair quickly developed a mainstream following.
“It’s not like I’m changing who I am,” Vito said of his appearance. “I’m still a snowboarder. I still act who I act like, and I’m having fun.”
And while fans on the show and of the sport fell in love with Vito’s free spirit. Those who know him will tell you that there’s no façade behind who Louie Vito really is.
“He is one of the most charming people you’ll ever meet,” SMS Dean of Students Margaret deSantis said. “He is going to have nothing but success because he remains true to himself.”
Stratton Mountain School is a ski and snowboard academy located at the base of Stratton Mountain. The school serves students in grades 8-12 with winter programs for 7th graders. The SMS community of students, faculty, coaches and staff share the pursuit of academic and athletic excellence.