How can you tell it’s been a really great year?
When a trip to the White House and a conversation with the president and first lady temporarily slip off your list of 2014 highlights.
Yet for Julia Krass, it’s certainly understandable.
At 16, Krass made the U.S. Olympic Team for the Sochi Games as a freeskier. Then she helped her high school soccer team win a state championship in New Hampshire, was accepted to Dartmouth College and won a bronze medal in just her second year on the Dew Tour.
It’s been a wild year of travel and accomplishments for Krass, so the chance to explore the White House with the rest of the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Teams and meet President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama after returning from Sochi temporarily slipped her mind.
“Oh yeah, right!” Krass said, laughing. “I totally forgot about that. That was really up there, too. That was really special.”
Krass recalls how much fun she had exploring Washington, D.C., with the other athletes, then having the chance to wander from room to room through the White House and have lunch before lining up to talk to the president.
“He said, ‘Oh you look so young,’ and we had a nice conversation about how really amazing it is to be able to do what I am at such a young age,” she recalled.
|Maggie Voisin (L) and Julia Krass take a selfie in the Rosa Khutor Mountain Village ahead of the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games on Feb. 6, 2014.
In fact, Krass — who finished 11th in the slopestyle competition at Sochi — was one of the youngest skiers on the U.S. Olympic Team (another slopestyle skier, Maggie Voisin, was 15, though she did not compete due to injury).
Krass, now 17 and a high school senior, splits her time between New Hampshire, where she grew up, and Colorado, where she trains. She takes her classes online to accommodate her travel, training and competition schedule.
But this fall she was still able to play for the girls’ soccer team at Hanover High School — where she attended her freshman and sophomore years — and help it win a Division II state championship.
Though she could easily have focused solely on her skiing, Krass said she definitely wanted to play her senior season of soccer, especially after coming close to a state championship the previous year.
“My junior year we made it to the semifinal and lost,” said Krass, a midfielder. “Everybody told us that our senior year was going to be the year. We had like 12 seniors and everyone knew we’d be really good this year.”
Plus, she’d been elected one of the team captains, along with two very close friends, and had been playing soccer with some of her teammates “since I can remember, way back in elementary school.”
She also relished playing a team sport — so different from skiing, where she’s on her own — and being a part of something bigger, where she and her teammates rely on one another.
“That was the best part of it,” she said. “Just being alongside all of these girls I’ve been playing with and known for so long. That definitely made it a lot more fun.”
Krass says she doesn’t plan to play soccer in college. It’s time to focus solely on her skiing career, in which she has come so far, so fast.
She went into 2014 hoping she could make the U.S. team for Sochi, but wasn’t “totally focused on it.”
“I knew I had the ability to,” she said. “But I wasn’t giving myself expectations. I knew if I skied my best that it could definitely be a possibility.”
After some disappointing performances in the first two Olympic qualifiers, Krass won the third at Park City, Utah, and wound up being a discretionary selection to the slopestyle team.
In Sochi, she didn’t perform as well as she’d hoped, finishing 11th, but enjoyed the Olympic experience — especially marching in the Opening Ceremony and representing the United States.
Now she wants another shot at the Olympic Winter Games.
“Being so young, I definitely want more next time,” she said. “I want to be able to go and do better and have an expectation for myself and put pressure on myself to do well. The first time around was definitely for the experience. I was so young, it was just crazy being there. But the next time, I definitely want to do a lot better.”
Krass says she already feels a difference in her skiing.
“Of course, I learned some new tricks,” she said. “But the biggest part, to me, is just being more confident in my skiing on these bigger courses with all these top-level athletes. Being on the professional-level tour is definitely really hard the first year, so now that it’s the second year, going into each event, doing the training days and just feeling confident on the course and knowing that you have the ability to do well is a huge thing, a huge factor.”
She didn’t have any podium finishes on the Dew Tour her first season (though she did win the third Olympic qualifier), but broke through with a bronze medal in the women’s slopestyle final at Breckenridge, Colorado, on Dec. 13. It was about the same time she learned she’d been accepted to Dartmouth. It was a nice topper to a great year.
Now, Krass is looking forward to a good 2015. It may not top 2014 — what could? — but the next year will include starting college and perhaps getting an invitation to compete in the Winter X Games. That’s her next big goal in skiing.
“Being a part of that would be really amazing,” she said.
Doug Williams covered three Olympic Games for two Southern California newspapers and was the Olympic editor for the San Diego Union-Tribune. He has written for TeamUSA.org since 2011 as a freelance contributor on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.