There’s sNOw way your winter break was COOLer than this

During a timeout, Braeden Swanson (4th left, top row) meets with the rest of the West Seattle High School basketball team.
Photo Courtesy of Braeden Swanson

Over the 2017 winter break, RAHS students had two weeks to relax, catch up on sleep, and spend time with family. Instead of sleeping their two weeks away, senior Dakota Gorder and junior Braeden Swanson enjoyed thrilling winter breaks.

Gorder travelled to the UK for just under two weeks to visit King’s College London, which he has already been accepted into, and interview at the University of Cambridge.

“I can’t discuss the details of the interview process but overall, I think it went very well,” said Gorder. “I was able to discuss my very unorthodox education and why the subject of history fascinates me so much. I also had plenty of time to dive into my knowledge and analysis of events, movements, and key continuities of history, both modern and ancient and how to apply that learning into contemporary settings.”

Gorder admitted to being slightly worried for his interview, but his confidence in his goals quickly helped to relieve his nerves.

“Having gotten accepted into other fabulous schools helped to take the pressure off,” said Gorder. “Also, I figured I’d be able to talk about history, my greatest passion (sorry airplanes), to experts in the field which seems like a dream come true. Anyone who knows me knows I can talk history all day (and often do), and this was a great opportunity to express my opinions and reflections on the subject to professors who really care.”

Because the interview was short notice, Gorder did not have a full itinerary for his trip, leaving him able to take some unplanned day trips, including seeing the the White Cliffs of Dover, the Royal Navy Museum, and a WWII airfield.

“My favorite part of the trip was visiting the Royal Navy Museum in Portsmouth,” said Gorder. “It was not originally planned in the itinerary but I successfully lobbied my parents to visit it for a day trip. It exceeded my wildest expectations.”

Senior Dakota Gorder poses in front of HMS Victory during his day trip to the Royal Navy Museum in Portsmouth.
Photo courtesy of Dakota Gorder

Despite the exciting day trips and marvelous opportunities, Gorder’s trip did have some drawbacks.

“The lack of iced coffee was really disgusting,” said Gorder. “I clearly need to begin a coffee company that serves iced coffee so these people know what they are missing out on. #MakeCoffeeIcedAgain.”

Swanson, on a different note, travelled to Arizona to partake in a basketball tournament, The Nike Tournament of Champions, with her resident high school, West Seattle High School.

“I was excited to go with my team because it is always such a fun way to bond and travel with friends,” said Swanson. “However, any sports related trip is considered a ‘business trip’ so you have to be in the right competitive mindset rather than just viewing the trip as a vacation.”

Playing some of the best teams from around the nation, Swanson’s team had some troubles and lost their first few games, which ended up revealing where their weak points were.

“As a team we were pretty disappointed in the way the tournament went, although we did end on a blowout win, but we’re really excited to see what the future has in store for us,” said Swanson. “We feel like we know where we need to improve and we all have big aspirations to make it far this year, maybe even to the top.”

One of the most challenging parts for the team is facing the coaches after coming off the court of a losing game.

“After each game, we get asked the question: Did you put 100% effort during the game? Did you give everything you had, whether that was on the court or on the bench?” said Swanson. “To take accountability and humble yourself in the fact that you may not have done the best you could and contributed the way you should have is really challenging and hard to face, especially because that gives the loss a lot more weight in your mind.”

Because they lost their first two games, Swanson’s coaches made the team run three miles before their third game, each mile in under nine minutes and thirty seconds.

“Our run was not without some close calls, and some extra effort from those of us who finished early — cheering on, and even running an extra lap with some people — is probably what stopped us from running extra,” said Swanson. “Those 3 miles were a challenge, and I definitely felt it during the game later, but it did get us fired up, and taught us the importance of taking responsibility and [that] being mentally tough is essential to success.”

Swanson, in addition, had her reservations about not just the games, but also about her teammates.

“I also don’t get to see all my teammates very much throughout the year because I don’t go to school with them,” said Swanson, “so sometimes I get a little nervous when I’m surrounded by people from such a different social scene who are always talking about different people, teachers, and school events. But over the past three years I’ve gotten used to that, so I wasn’t quite so apprehensive about this trip.”

Swanson, however, did end up having a fun time bonding with her teammates off the court, which may contribute to their success in later games.

“My favorite part was spending time with my teammates in the hotel and playing with my coach’s kids around Phoenix (they are the cutest children ever!),” said Swanson. “We played some fun bonding games in our rooms, and did our annual Secret Santa gift exchange which brought us all closer and built trust within one another.”

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