On March 8, sophomore skier Hailey Swirbul finished third at the NCAA national championship in classic skiing. Even more impressive? Two days later, she finished second at the national 15-kilometer freestyle event, with her parents, her brother and even her dog cheering from the sidelines.
Even more impressive, she holds a 4.0 in civil engineering, all while traveling the world representing UAA and the USA.
Hailey hails from El Jebel, Colorado, where her parents pushed her onto Nordic ski trails as a kid. She didn’t enjoy the sport, though, until she joined the Aspen Valley Ski Club in fifth grade. As a student on a club team, Hailey was well accustomed to missing days of school to get to weekend races. The difference now, of course, is the distance. In Colorado, meets were often in the neighboring state. From Alaska, they may require weeks out of town.
“It’s incredibly busy being a student-athlete,” she said of her time at UAA. This semester, she estimates she’s been away from campus more than she’s been in class, due in part to her extracurricular involvement on Team USA’s under-20 team. She traveled to the Junior World Ski Championships in Switzerland in February, finishing second in the 5k classic and third in skiathalon in the world. It was her third world juniors, and she ended her under-20 ski career as the most decorated U.S. junior in team history.
“I was really fortunate to be able to make that team and to be over there representing the USA this year,” she said.