Big Dreams: Devin de Jong
Devin de Jong isn’t in a hurry to get to college.
Steamboat Springs ski racer Devin de Jong dances through the gates while racing last winter. The 2015 Steamboat Springs High School graduate plans to spend this winter on the slopes hoping to improve his position in the points rankings and increase his chances of competing with a top-level NCAA program.
The 2015 Steamboat Springs High School graduate applied and was accepted to several colleges, including his top choice, the University of Vermont. But when the time came to decide, de Jong elected to stay in Steamboat Springs and pursue his ski racing goals instead of breaking open college textbooks.
“I felt like taking a gap year and trying to lower my points was the best thing for me,” de Jong said. “It wasn’t an easy choice, but I knew I wanted to ski in college, and I felt like this was the best thing I could do to get to where I wanted.”
As a student at Steamboat Springs High School, de Jong had plenty of options as his senior year came to an end. He was accepted by and offered an academic scholarship to the University of Vermont and was also tempted by the University of Colorado and Montana State University.
But in the end, he decided to take a year to focus on ski racing with the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club’s post-graduate program, which currently includes 12 Alpine athletes.
Sarah Floyd, Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club assistant executive director, said it’s not uncommon to have Alpine skiers in the post-graduate program.
“Colleges normally swoop in to grab our Nordic ski racers, but since Alpine ski racers take a little longer to develop, most of them take a year to see if they can lower their points,” Floyd said.
That was the case with de Jong, who took a step back from college to pursue his dreams and mature as a student.
“It’s always been Devin’s goal to ski for a division I skiing program,’” his mother, Colleen, said. “So we were not surprised when he decided to take a year to try to lower his points. It was bittersweet, because he had a scholarship to the University of Vermont. But this is Devin’s ship to sail, and it’s his life and dreams.”
Colleen said she’s confident Devin will go to college. She is also convinced he will continue skiing when he gets there even if he doesn’t get the Division I spot he wants.
“I love ski racing, and I love competition,” de Jong said. “If things don’t work out, I will ski with a club team at whatever college I attend. I just felt like I needed to take a shot to see if I could make the team I want to ski for, and I think taking a year will only make me appreciate being at college that much more.”
This fall, when his classmates left for college, de Jong acknowledged a moment when he second-guessed his decision, and he said it’s difficult at times listening to his friends talk about college.
But de Jong didn’t have much time to feel sorry for himself. Instead, he started reading a lot and found hobbies, such as riding BMX bikes with another post-graduate athlete, to fill his down time.
A few weeks after his friends left for college, training for the upcoming season shifted into gear, and any regrets he had quickly faded.
“I know this is the right path,” de Jong said. “There is plenty of time to go back to school, and it’s not something you have to rush.”
This season, de Jong and other post-graduate skiers will travel around the country looking for the best opportunities to lower their points at regional collegiate and FIS races, and when the time comes, de Jong said he will be ready.
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