Steamboat’s Seymour wins NCAA title while balancing both U.S. and University of Denver ski teams
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS —On Friday, March 8, Steamboat Springs native Jett Seymour cruised down the slalom course in Stowe, Vermont, at blazing speed to capture his first-ever NCAA title as a sophomore representing the University of Denver.
It was his third All-American finish at the NCAA National Championships. His season also included a 10th place finish at the Junior World Championships.
Seymour is making strides as an elite athlete at both the professional and collegiate levels. Unlike many Alpine professional skiers, he steps off the mountain to hit the books. He has finals to study for at the University of Denver, where he is majoring in international business and finance.
“Basically, when I’m not skiing, I’m studying,” Seymour said. “I just have to make do with what I have and be the most efficient as possible. On a plane ride instead of watching a movie, hammering out a paper or reading a book I have to read, finding every little moment to do homework.”
Seymour is a member of the U.S. Ski Team and the University of Denver ski team, paving the way as one of few athletes who prove they can do both.
“Denver was the only place that recruited me,” Seymour said. “It was my top school, and the fact that they offered me a spot, it was a dream come true.”
“To have such a young athlete come here straight out of high school, I knew there would be learning curves and growing pains, but when you look at what he’s done, you’re looking at somebody that wants to make a mark on more than skiing,” Denver University Alpine coach Andy LeRoy said. “You can do this from college and be the best ski racer in the world. That mentality is something he is bringing to our team and the circuit.”
In the past, LeRoy said competing at the collegiate level was a sign an athlete was giving up on their World Cup dreams. Even as high school students, athletes travel so much that he believes they’re lucky to walk out of high school with a sophomore-level education.
When he first recruited Seymour, who was coming off a NorAm race win ranked No. 1 in the world in his age group for slalom skiing, the coach wanted to convince Seymour it was possible to be an elite skier and receive a top-notch education.
“There’s no reason that student athletes can’t receive a college education while competing on the national team,” LeRoy said. “It just hasn’t been happening.”
There are requirements to meet as both a professional and collegiate skier.
As a collegiate skier, Seymour had to compete in at least two slalom and two giant slalom races, meaning two weekends of collegiate racing. The problem with competing in just the minimum number of races is skiers limit their chances of reaching a podium and qualifying for the NCAA Championships. Seymour competed in eight of 12 possible collegiate races this year to earn his spot.
As a member of the U.S. Ski Team, Seymour was committed to competing in the Junior World Championships and a number of NorAm cup races to maintain points to remain a competitor while also attempting to amass enough points to earn a World Cup spot.
“Last year, I think with the added stress of school and it being my first year, learning the new coaches, how the team operates on the road was new to me,” Seymour said. “Communication between the University of Denver team and U.S. Ski Team had to be so high, and there was a lot of mix-ups, which created some issues. And this year, I was a little more organized with my planning, knowing where I was going, when and for how long, so I could talk to my teachers.”
The thrill of racing down a course with a crowd cheering for him is what drives Seymour’s love for the sport, but the team aspect of collegiate racing is also something he values.
The University of Denver ski team did not podium as a team this year due to tough competition on the Nordic side, but Seymour saw his teammate Simon Fournier take second in the giant slalom just two days before his title. As top-five placers, the University of Denver named Seymour, Fournier and Tobias Kogler, whom took fifth in giant slalom, first-team All-Americans in Alpine skiing this year.
“When you’re in your start gate, you have 11 other athletes that are pulling for you, and your coaches are pulling for you, and everything matters,” Seymour said. “You get butterflies for your teammates coming down — compared to when you have butterflies for yourself coming out of the start gate. It’s refreshing for an individual sport.”
Four days after his NCAA title, Seymour was back on the slopes on Tuesday at a NorAm cup race at Burke Mountain in Vermont. He estimates he has 10 races left this season.
“Jett skis at such a high level, he can win the next Olympics,” LeRoy said. “He was with the national team when he got to me and, hopefully, will be with the national team when he leaves me. I’m just happy to be a step along the way.”
Nordic combined athletes Jared Shumate and Stephen Schumann made their Olympic debuts in Beijing just a few months ago. But their sport’s future at the Games is unclear.
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