SALT LAKE CITY -- Westminster College has over a dozen of its current students competing in the Vancouver Olympics, including Lacy Schnoor and a ski jumper who competed Thursday night. Those at the school tell us there's no other school in the country with that many students competing in the games.
One of the perks of making the US ski team is even if you don't make it to the Olympics, you get a scholarship to Westminster, and that's even if the athlete has retired from the sport!
Sitting in physics class is a big difference from where Jay Bowman-Kirigain has spent the past three winters--on the slopes, training with the US Ski team. Now retired, he's going to Westminster College for free.
Bowman-Kirigain participates in the Westminster/USSA tuition grant program that's available to everyone on the US ski team.
Safia Keller, with Westminster, said, "They need to start classes at Westminster while they are on the team. And as long as they take at least one class while they are on the team, after they retire their entire education is paid for.
Westminster's Olympic athletes
|Jana Lindsey||Aerials||Blackhawk, S.D.|
|Ryan St. Onge||Aerials||Winter Park, Colo.|
|Dylan Ferguson||Aerials||Amesbury, Mass.|
|Heather McPhie||Moguls||Park City|
|Bryon Wilson||Moguls||Butte, Mont.|
|Liz Stephen||Cross Country||East Montepelier, Vt.|
|Torin Koos||Cross Country||Leavenworth, Wash.|
|Morgan Arritola||Cross Country||Ketchum, Idaho|
|Graham Watanabe||Snowboarding||Sun Valley, Idaho|
|Zach Lund||Skeleton||Salt Lake City|
|Megan McJames||Alpine skiing||Park City|
|Kaylin Richardson||Alpine skiing||Edina, Minn.|
|Leanne Smith||Alpine skiing||Conway, N.H.|
Former team member Willy Graves said, "I don't know how I would do it any other way."
He said without the scholarship, he couldn't afford to pay for an education on his own. Bowman-Kirigain agreed. "This makes it easier, cause I don't have to worry about student debt now, and education is important in my family."
"Parents of these athletes have put every penny they have into their athletic pursuits, and often there is no money left for academics," Keller said.
The grant program for U.S. ski team skiers has been around since 2005. Ryan St. Onge, who competed in Torino and will compete in Vancouver in freestyle aerials, appreciates all the work Westminster does for him.
"Accommodating our busy schedules and working through the team to get us there with the teachers," he said.
That way, the athletes never fall behind.
"I missed the spring of freshman-sophomore year, and I was able to make up the necessary chemistry courses required for my major, because of my professors and them wanting to work for me," Bowman-Kirigain said.
He still has a few more years of schooling before he graduates in physics and chemistry, but he's taking a little break right now to watch his friends and fellow students, compete in Vancouver!