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Not a typical student athlete

It’s Wednesday. The alarm goes off at 6:45 a.m. and senior Heather Patterson rolls out of bed as she gets ready to go to Killington to practice with the other members of the Castleton State College ski team. She’s on the road by 7:15 a.m. By 9 a.m. she’s on the gates getting ready to train.From 9:30 a.m. to 11:45 a.m. she gets in about six to 10 runs. Then at noon it’s time to get back to Castleton.

Patterson arrives on campus at 12:45 p.m. and immediately has to hustle to her 1 p.m. class. She is an Athletic Training major, so at 2 p.m. she has to meet with athletes in the athletic training room to do their rehabs. By 4 p.m. she dashes off to her next class.

After class she rushes home to eat dinner and take a shower. After that she races to the library to do her homework until around 11 p.m. and then it is off to bed.

When she gets up the next day, she does it all over again.

This is just a typical training day for Patterson, but she isn’t just your typical student athlete. She was recently named an Academic All-American by the United States Collegiate Ski and Snowboard Association.

The prestigious award is based on achieving a certain GPA and being a member of a team that qualified for the USCSA national championships. Castleton was one of 23 women’s and 21 men’s teams at Sunday River, Maine, in March.

When the men’s and women’s ski teams went to nationals, they came back with four Academic All-Americans. The other winners were Connor O’Brien, Erica Luce and Katie Martin.

Patterson has been successful in the classroom during her time at Castleton, earning a cumulative GPA of 3.57 so far. On the slopes, Patterson has compiled three third-place finishes this season and finished the year ranked fourth in the Eastern Collegiate Ski Association Thompson Division standings. Patterson ends her skiing career at Castleton with 14 top-three finishes and 37 top-10s, both program records.

When she first heard she had received the award Patterson was very flattered, but her future is what came to her mind.

“I thought, ‘Oh wow, that will be a good thing to put on my resume,'” Patterson said.

But Patterson doesn’t keep up with her studies for the awards, she does it simply because it’s imperative to her.

“I always have goals to do well in school,” she said. “Maintaining my grades is something that’s important to me.”

Head ski coach Chris Eder is very proud of Patterson’s hard work and was not surprised she was one out of the four to receive the award based on her GPA.

“She’s a senior who really shows what she’s done and capable of,” Eder said.

Patterson, a Stockton, Calif. native who started skiing at the age of four and racing competitively at eight, said skiing and school haven’t always meshed this well in the past. Patterson even had to quit competing when she was a junior in high school because there was a lack of support from her teachers when it came to skiing.

She skied for the Heavenly Ski Foundation, which was located three hours from her home, so she missed every Friday of school. Her teachers didn’t understand why skiing was so important so Patterson had no choice but to stop skiing and focus on school.

She said these two years of her life were her lowest. But Patterson got another chance to compete on the slopes again when she got a call from Eder. She was one of the first real recruits the ski team had.

“I was promised that I was going to help shape the program,” Patterson said. “It’s really one of the only reasons I came to Vermont. It’s the reason I stayed here for four years.”

But it was also Castleton’s flexibility with its student/athletes that also made it appealing to Patterson.

“This school made it so it’s OK to be an athlete and a student,” she said.

Patterson has a lot of family support even if she rarely gets to see any of them. Her father is an avid skier as are her siblings. But one of her biggest fans is her grandfather, Robert Humphrey, who is president of the private school, Humphreys College, in her hometown.

Patterson says he is a very caring person and her education is something that is very important to him. He even got to see her race during her four years here and, according to Patterson, was very intrigued and loved watching her.

When Patterson first came to Castleton, being so far away from home was not easy for her to deal with at first.

“I hated Vermont,” she said.

But she later realized how many wonderful people she had met through the course of her being here.

“I have friends here who will be my lifelong friends,” she said.

Patterson will graduate this spring and will attend graduate school at Utah State. Patterson went on to say she knows wherever she ends up she will always keep in touch with these friends, and in the long run she is very happy with her decision to come to Castleton.

“It’s not about where you are, it’s about who you’re with,” she said.