For a number of local high school athletes competing on the mogul skiing circuit, the drive toward 2018 already has begun.
In an arena where the competition not only is blossoming with ever-increasing ferocity, but where the talent pool is getting both deeper and younger, taking advantage of every opportunity, even at the junior level, is a necessary imperative in order to realize those Olympic and World Cup dreams.
In that spirit, Fairview junior Casey Andringa is packing his bags, as well as his skis, and ditching school.
Andringa was one of a number of local athletes who turned in impressive showings about two weeks ago during a United States Ski Team selections meet for a series of North American Championship (NORAM) mogul competitions that will be held over the next two months.
While Andringa certainly has not dropped out of school, he nonetheless has absconded from the hallways of Fairview in order to continue his education online for the upcoming semester. Andringa instead will be delving into another sort of education as he travels over the next two months to compete at all four NORAM meets.
For all the athletes, such competitions typically provide an early toward their drive to becoming potential regulars on the World Cup circuit.
"This really sets you up for making a run at the U.S. Ski team," Andringa said. "It's a great place to compare yourself to skiers across the country and even Canada and Australia. You go from the Junior Olympics to other junior events to competing against kids from various countries who are the best of their age group.
"(The Olympics) is the ultimate goal. This is kind of the first step in that process."
In addition to Andringa, a number of other local emerging mogul stars recorded strong performances at the selection meet at Copper Mountain to become eligible for the NORAM meets. That group includes Boulder graduate and current Colorado State student Alyssa Lawson and her younger sister, Kelly Lawson, in addition to fellow BHS students Kaitlyn Harrell, Nina Krol, and Jordan Zoller.
Most of those athletes are coached by veteran Winter Park-based instructor Freddy Mooney. The elder Lawson is a veteran of the NORAM circuit who is bouncing back after a concussion slowed her down a year ago. Zoller and Harrell each are considered up-and-coming stars on the moguls circuit, while Krol boasts a unique background, as her status as a dual citizen of Poland actually has the Boulder resident competing as Polish national.
"The potential is there for all the kids, but (Zoller) got a lot of attention at this recent meet," Mooney said. "For all of them to make it to this level is really big. There is a really thick talent pool with the younger athletes. The field at this event at Copper was amazing."
While all of the athletes are eligible for all four NORAM meets, which events they ultimately compete at will be determined by a number of various factors. Andringa has chosen to focus solely on his training while plying his trade at all four NORAM meets -- a decision he admitted was difficult, yet he hopes will lead to promising opportunities down the road.
"I'll be moving to Winter Park full time and I leave in February for an entire month to do school and compete on the road," Andringa said. "I had to take my finals early a few weeks ago because of this competition (at Copper). It can be hard. You start missing your friends, but I have a lot of friends doing this too. Online you learn as much as you do in school, but there is no social aspect.
"NORAM is great, but four weeks of traveling and competition can be tough."
Follow Pat on Twitter: @prooney07