We are thrilled to see our students pursuing excellence inside and outside of school. Below are the stories of three high-performing student-athletes who are grabbing headlines in the sports of synchronized skating, competitive downhill skiing and swimming:
On January 20, eighth grader Giada Jimenez takes to the ice in The Eastern Synchronized Skating Sectional Championships, the East Coast competition that will determine if her team will move to Nationals.
The ECMS middle school student has been competing for four years in this relatively obscure sport, a sport that combines figure skating with what she describes as “kind of like the New York City Rockettes, requiring total precision.”
Her athletic pathway started in an unlikely place, with an ice skating birthday party. She shares, “I found it so [difficult] that I became obsessed to conquer the challenge. So I asked my parents for lessons.” Moving through a progressively difficult lesson regimen and into individual figure skating, she was finally introduced to synchronized ice skating at a skate camp in The Codey Arena in West Orange.
For Jimenez, synchronized skating is a labor of love. “Typically, I practice four days a week. As competitions approach, practices increase. On Tuesdays, I wake up at 4:50 a.m. for a private lesson at 5:55-7:25 a.m. in Hackensack, NJ. I change out of skate clothes into school clothes, eat breakfast in the car, and make it to ECMS by the 8:15 bell.”
In addition to her own practices, Jimenez clocked more than 100 hours of volunteer time for Codey Arena Skate Camp this summer. “It was easy for me to do because it was fun and I love to skate,” she says.
What’s next for this athlete? Although growing in demand, synchronized ice skating is not yet an Olympic sport. Her hope one day is to try out for the Princeton University Synchro Team.
“Friends are often curious and ask why do I torture myself with 4:45 a.m. wake-ups and then voluntarily go and freeze myself at an ice rink during the middle of the winter season. I guess if you put it that way, it does sound like torture. But I tell them every time, call me a little crazy, but I just love skating. Synchro is fun…And I’m super excited because I just landed my first clean, crisp axel this past Monday. I have been chasing that maneuver for nearly a year.”
Vivienne Vetlov’s largest athletic accomplishment to date happened at the end of the season last year, where she competed in a Northeast downhill skiing competition and came in first place female for the state of New Jersey in slalom, and fourth place female for the state of New Jersey in giant slalom. The competition, named the Francese Piche Invitational, is a multi-day event held at Gunstock Mountain in New Hampshire and features a vetted list of competitors from 9 divisions within the USSA Eastern Region.
Although the regional race isn’t slated until March, Vetlov is hoping for another strong performance, and is seeking even better times. In addition to the end of the season race, she regularly competes in New Jersey events against 50+ athletes, and finishes at the top. Like Jimenez, her routine involves four days of practice during the season. Outside of the winter season, she completes dry land training.
Vetlov sees a connection between her sport and the school’s core values. In addition to pursuing excellence, she relays that equipment necessary for each competition has taught her to develop responsibility.
In addition, “Skiing actually helped a lot with my school performance. Talking with my other ski friends, they also mentioned how skiing helped with school. For me, skiing is a way to just take a second and enjoy what’s going on around you. This helped with school because skiing just calmed me and freed my mind,” says Vetlov.
By Taline Madalian, ECHS journalism student
Junior Nehemiah Rhee, also known as Nemo, clearly lives up to his name. As a competitive swimmer, Nehemiah has been working his way to the highest rankings in the state and nation for the past 11 years.
At the age of five, Nemo began swimming and has continued to this day on the Wyckoff YMCA Sharks swim team. Through a strict regimen and determination, Nemo has progressed to the highest competitions in New Jersey.
While swimming year-round, his weekly routine includes seven days of two and half hours of swimming and one hour of lifting after. On Sundays, Nemo has to be at his session from 5:30 a.m. until 8:00 a.m.
Nemo wants to pursue swimming in college, but will likely stop swimming competitively after college. He says, “I love the aspect of being able to get in the water with my friends because while it is competitive, it also teaches you life lessons like discipline, managing your time, and being patient.” His favorite memory is getting his first national qualification time as he worked very hard for it, and had previously failed six times by two-tenths of a second. On the contrary, his worst moments include whenever he loses because while he is grateful to be placed at these meets, he does not like the feeling of knowing that someone is better than him, and thus he is always working to be the best he can be.
He has the aspirations to be in international meets, but has not qualified yet. At a recent competition, he had the opportunity to make a name out of himself, and he succeeded. In the 100 butterfly, Nemo obtained a time that ranked him second in New Jersey. In the past, he has gone to a total of 5 nationals, which are twice a year in August and April. In the 100 butterfly, he ranks 259th in the nation.
Nemo adds, “I can hold my breath for 3 minutes,” almost as long as the real Nemo!