Imagine dedicating each weekend, November through March, to 10 hours of driving and 15 hours of athletic training, working toward a goal that could be shattered with one injury or the slightest lapse in commitment.
Now imagine doing that and being just 14 years old.
That’s the life of Katherine (Kat) Spilman, a freshman dedicating her free time to the United States Ski Association (USSA) and competing in freestyle mogul events in the northeast and Canada.
Spilman, who gets her ski skills from her parents, Chris and JoAnn, took to the slopes at the age of 2, she said, and began skiing competitively at age 9. The high school freshman made the junior varsity volleyball team this past fall, and plays club softball as well. She’ll be trying out for the school softball team in March, too.
“I’ve always been athletic and a competitive person,” Spilman said. “I don’t really sit still; I need to be moving and doing something all the time.”
The inability to keep stationery–aside from when she’s texting, according to Spilman’s mom–is the driving force behind the teen’s burgeoning ski career.
Spilman competes in mogul races and just came in eighth at the Killington Klassic on Feb. 5 in the dual mogul event in Vermont.
In order to compete in those events, however, the family has to pack up and hit the road every Friday for Saturday and Sunday competitions.
“We all have assigned seats in the car, which is sort of like our second home,” Kat Spilman said. The family even brings their Shiba Inu, Cindy, along for the ride.
The weekend travel to and from Vermont has become routine, Chris said, but the family has gotten to the point where it needs to weigh the effort against the outcome.
“It’s all about the money for (the USSA),” Chris Spilman said. “The more you compete and win, the more money they get by you entering into competitions. It’s a machine. We’re at a point right now where we have to ask ourselves, where do we go from here?”
While Spilman continues to progress, she–and her parents–understand that one injury could end her career.
“I’ve seen girls with terrible injuries, tearing their ACL on the slopes, and now they’re basically done,” Spilman said.
Competing in mogul events can be wearing on the body, Spilman said, who has suffered a few back injuries during her career, along with a broken ankle while training on a trampoline last summer.
“There are days when you can’t get out of bed,” she said. “You make sure you always have Advil with you.”
“Injuries are always in the back of your mind,” JoAnn Spilman said. “Your first priority is for all the kids to get down (the slopes) OK.”
As Spilman continues to master the speed, turns and lines, and air facets of the sport–the three categories mogul racers are judged on–she looks toward competing on a bigger stage, sooner than later.
The youngster is keeping the focus directly ahead of her, saying competing in the Olympics would be a dream, but isn’t a goal right now. Qualifying for the NorAm competition, however, is on her current shortlist.
Placing in the top-2 positions in moguls or dual moguls at the NorAm event would automatically qualify her to be part of the
The young athlete may not get the accolades most high school sports participants achieve because of her choice of extracurricular activity, but she’s fine with that.
“I’ll take (skiing) over anything else,” Spilman said. “You’re always moving, always doing something, and I just love doing it.”
Spilman will continue to work toward her goal, with her family’s support firmly behind her, and hopes to always keep moving within the world of skiing.