Walla Walla High School freshman Hayden White is headed to Jackson Hole, Wyo., for the Junior Olympics next week.
WALLA WALLA — Hayden White is on his way to fulfill a longtime dream today, as he embarks on a trip to the Junior Olympics to ski for the Bluewood Alpine Racing Team (BART) in Jackson Hole, Wyo., next week.
“It’s been a goal of mine since I was 5 and started racing,” White said.
He actually started skiing in Sun Valley, Idaho, when he was 1.
His younger sister, Halle, also got her start in Sun Valley before parents Hal and Jani moved the family to Walla Walla in 2002.
Skiing has been a lifelong staple of the entire White family.
Jani got her start while growing up in Walla Walla, taking the ski bus to Bluewood.
Hal hit the slopes at Spout Springs, and later skied for the University of Puget Sound. He is now the coach for BART.
Hal and Jani moved to Sun Valley, a mecca for skiers, in 1990.
After moving back to Walla Walla, the Whites made the slopes of Bluewood home, with both Hayden and Halle excelling with BART. Hayden competes in the under-15 division, Halle the U14.
Hayden, a freshman who also plays baseball at Walla Walla High School, is the first BART skier to qualify for Junior Olympics, BART program director Curtis Seiss said.
Bluewood skier Tiffany Struthers actually qualified for the competition 14 years ago, but BART wasn’t formed until 2003.
“It is a huge accomplishment and is the goal of every alpine competitor in the 14-15-year age bracket,” Seiss said of White. “Watching Hayden develop to this competitive level has been particularly rewarding because he has also been developing as a young man. Every year that I have known him, he has become more focused and worked harder at his ski racing, but he has also become more generous, gentle and empathetic while keeping the sensitivity he displayed as a boy.”
Seiss said Hayden is almost an assistant coach on BART, “helping other athletes and jumping in anywhere he is needed. He has been a great mentor to the younger athletes on the team.”
Hayden will be the lone BART representative making the trip to Jackson Hole, but he’ll be with familiar faces. The 26 skiers representing the Northwest region all compete during the season, so he knows most of them and the members of the Schweitzer team he’s joining for the trip to Jackson Hole.
They’ll train at Schweitzer until Monday, when they head to Jackson Hole.
The skiers have Tuesday to become familiar with the mountain, and Hayden will begin competing in Super G, Giant Slalom and Slalom events on Wednesday.
The Junior Olympics continue through March 23, with skiers from around the country and Canada.
“I feel a little nervous, but I’m excited,” Hayden said of the stiff competition. “I hope to place in the top 15. It’s a challenge, but I think I can do it.”
“Hayden accepted the challenge to compete at the higher level, and is now firmly on the first run of the development path that leads to international competition,” Seiss said. “It has not been easy and speaks to his dedication and work ethic that he has been successful.”
But reaching this level isn’t Hayden’s only goal, as skiing is a big part of his future plans.
“I hope to ski race through college, and hopefully, one day the U.S. Ski Team,” he said.