Anyone who watched the season-opening Skyview Invitational cross-country ski meet might be surprised to find out that Skyview senior Kyle Dudley was embarking on just his third season of skiing.
Certainly Dudley's finish didn't give anything away. After finishing seventh in the freestyle sprint portion of the event, Dudley came back to take third in the classic race to finish third overall in a very talented field of skiers many of whom were on skies long before Dudley ever had any ideas of trying the sport.
"I started sophomore year," Dudley said. "(Skyview ski coach Kent) Peterson is my band teacher, and he said I should do it. I figured I might as well get off my lazy butt and do something."
Dudley said his skiing career began with a trip to a local ski shop, then it was on to his first practice.
"I've got skis, poles and boots now show me how to move," Dudley said of his first experience on the white stuff.
Peterson said Dudley did really well in his first season, making it onto the squad that represented the Panthers at the state meet. Dudley was in the top 10 in the region as a junior, and Peterson thinks he can make the top five this year.
And Dudley's high school skiing career has not been without some other awards though they might not be the most prestigious.
"Every year, we give out joke awards. I get the Snowman Award," Dudley said, explaining that he has spent a good deal of time extricating himself from his various crashes in practice.
Skiing isn't the only new thing Dudley has tried in high school. While he's been playing soccer since middle school, Dudley also tried cross country running and swimming this year.
But while many seniors pick up activities to pad their college applications, Dudley has ulterior motives: He's hoping the training will help him reach his goal of becoming a Navy SEAL.
Dudley said a career in the Navy's elite commando unit first began to take shape when he was in sixth grade. For a little while in high school, he thought about becoming and Army Ranger instead, but after a close friend joined the Navy, Dudley decided it was Anchors Aweigh for himself as well.
"Minus the fact that for six months, you get beat up, I think it will be pretty cool serving my country, saving people," Dudley said.
Dudley ships out for boot camp in Great Lakes, Ill., on June 3. Currently, his job title is Special Warfare Combat Crew, but he's optimistic that during boot camp he'll be retested and granted a vision waiver to enter the SEAL training program.
Dudley has more than enough to keep himself busy until June, though. He plays baritone horn and trumpet in the Skyview band, and he works at Suzie's Cafe in Sterling. Dudley also enjoys the occasional paintball battle.
His cross country running season was fairly successful Dudley finished 23rd overall at the borough meet and was 33rd at regions.
Dudley said transitioning from running to swimming was tough.
"I was kind of like a floundering fish the first week or so," Dudley said.
Dudley then had about a month and a half of swimming before transitioning into skiing. Dudley said he's a stronger classical skier, and he's still trying to get the skate technique down.
"I'm more of an upper-body, physical kind of guy, and classic uses more of your upper body," Dudley said. "I've got most of it down, but I still have some technique problems."
"He's really driven," Peterson said. "He listens to what the coaches say and tries to apply that to what he's doing.
"... He's skiing with kids that are better than him but he's always been willing to go out and try to keep up with those kids."
Dudley said he's hoping to pull it all together by the end of the season, and maybe win a race a long the way.
Peterson said Dudley's drive to join the SEALs has helped him become a better athlete.
"He's taken their suggestions on how to be successful and applied them," Peterson said. "It's a real disciplined approach to his future."
After that provided the snow melts before graduation it will be out to the soccer pitch. Dudley said soccer is his favorite sport, and he's hoping to finish his high school career on a high note.
"He's a down to earth type of kid. He works hard and does well," said Skyview soccer coach Dave Carpenter. "He was just breaking in (to the varsity starting lineup) toward the end of last season.
"He'll be one of our seniors. It will be his turn to step in. We'll need leadership from those guys."
Carpenter said Dudley, who plays fullback, will have a great opportunity to play because most of last year's defenders have moved on.
Last year, the Panthers had a great regular season but came up short at the region tournament. This year, Dudley is hoping for another good season to follow what's turning out to be a great ski season.
"I'm hoping so, since it's my senior year," Dudley said.
"I'm just happy to do as good as I can. I'll keep practicing and working as hard as I can."
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