Though many people may disagree, I considered 2016 to be a good year. It had its ups and downs, and I really got to reflect on that over this winter break. Spinning 360’s off of 50-foot jumps, speeding down a snow-covered mountain on a board at speeds topping the speed limit in most areas, and studying all day long with endless mountains of homework can really make a person forget about the best moments of the past, and in this post I wanted to relieve those moments.
2016 started with a bang. Full on in snowboard season, we were blasting jumps and racing boardercross with the intention of qualifying for nationals. So many things happened, and I’m going to just list the biggest events and things that happened to me in 2016, trying my best to keep chronological order from the beginning of the year till now.
Debate – Joining the speech and debate team at Summit Middle School in January 2016 was a very interesting experience. I got the chance to experience firsthand how debate works, arguing back and forth on points from a topic chosen by a speech and debate association. I had some good debating and especially speaking skills, but I just wasn’t into the whole “arguing over something I don’t care about” thing. It was a generally positive experience, to sum it all up in an extremely generalized statement. My debate partner was good, so that definitely contributed to the experience, and the fact that it was something new really helped me to want to try more things in the future.
First competitions – I started my competition season in late January, competing against some of the toughest competition in the US at Ski Cooper. The course was sketchy and poorly made, but racing is racing, and that’s all that matters to me. My love for the event was spurred by these first events, and my desire to place higher kept growing. My ranking, however, didn’t follow suit. Taking second to last in almost all four comps, I realized that my chance at qualifying for nationals was slim. I decided to take a trip to Crested Butte in the neighboring Southwest Colorado Series in order to place higher in contest, giving me more points to qualify. Unfortunately, I didn’t count on competitors from our Rocky Mountain Series to also have the same idea. I ended up placing decently, and on the last day, barely missing the top 2 spots to qualify for the finals, I raced what was probably the best race of my life (so far…) in the consolation final (to determine 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th), and aggressively passed all the competitors to take the win and rank 5th that day. As a result of my placing, I qualified for the 2016 USASA National Championships, placing 94th in the country to get an invite.
National Championships – Seeing my name pop up on the list as qualified for the National Championships just made my day, week, month and year. I knew that when I qualified, our time, effort and money weren’t for nothing. I mean, how cool is it to tell someone that you competed for the title of National Champion, even if you didn’t place that well? Nationals was a crazy fun time, and I ended up placing 42nd out of 74, which was decent for my first time. Watching the nation’s best amateur competitors duel it out in 6 events, each competing for the top spot, was just amazing. I enjoyed the entire experience, and I hope to qualify again this year. It’s only 3 months away…
Track – I almost forgot to include my experience participating in my favorite sport! Last spring, I ran track for Summit Middle School in what was my second season doing track and field, and it went pretty well. I made some new friends, including my friend Calvin, who basically dominated track and field the whole season. I broke my PR in the 100m dash by nearly a second, running 12.46 at the championship meet at the end of the season, which was great. The season started off with a few mini-meets, where there were only a couple events and was a great intro to the real season. My first “real” meet, I ran the 200m, High Jump, Discus and 4×100. I placed second in the 200m, narrowly getting beat out in the last 40 meters. High Jump went well, placing second once again, and clearing 4’10”, which I thought to be a good start to the season. I’d never tried discus before, and ended up only throwing 75′, which was pretty mediocre seeing as I threw over 90′ in practice, taking 5th place. In the 4×100, I believe we took second or third, but I’m not sure… (it was a while ago!). The rest of the season went relatively well, with me placing top 5 in every meet.
At the end of the season, I decided to run the 100m dash, the 200m dash, the 4×100 and the High Jump. Actually, let’s not talk about high jump. I basically fell victim to pressure after tripping at the 100m finish line before the event started and hurting my leg, and couldn’t overcome the pain, much to my disappointment and embarrassment, and only cleared 4’6″. I gave it my all in the 100m and 200m, and qualified for finals, running a 12.8 in the 100m qualifiers and a 26.4 in the 200m qualifiers, qualifying 5th in the 100m and 6th in the 200m (Top 8 times qualified). On the second day of the meet, I ran 12.46 in the 100m dash to take 6th out of 8, which was disappointing but still good for me considering I ran my fastest time ever, and 26.9 in the 200m to take 5th out of 8. Overall, the season went well, and I can’t wait till this season so I can see how I place ranked up against other high schoolers. Here’s a video of me clearing 4’10” at my first meet of the season:
Summer Travels – Travelling around the country again this past summer just felt…. relieving. It was an action-packed, fun-filled, and exciting experience, seeing many new places and revisiting old ones. Starting off in Ouray, CO, we hiked to many places, saw endless beautiful waterfalls and played tons of frisbee in the park. Traveling to Sedona, AZ, we ran, hiked, and drove our way around Petrified Forest National Park, seeing the deep valleys and amazing sunsets. After arriving in Sedona, although I didn’t initially realize it, life somehow seemed to become two times better than before. It just kept getting better and better. First, we arrived at a house that I wouldn’t mind living in for a while, with an amazing location, tons of space, and most importantly, my own room. The day after, we entered a Nike Tennis Camp at Enchantment Resort, where we greatly improved our tennis game thanks to our amazing coaches. Even after the tennis camp had ended, we continued to play every night at lighted outdoor tennis courts near our house. Then, in what possibly was my luckiest find of the summer, I discovered a high school with an open high jump pit. I probably went there 3 times a week, repeatedly jumping over the bar until at last I injured my leg (Still not sure what I did, but I could barely walk for a few days and the pain stayed for another few months), but not before I cleared a new PR of 5’2″ (twice!).
While visiting Sedona, we took a trip to the YoYoFactory Headquarters, and met the co-owner and various employees of the company. It was insane how many YoYos there were at the HQ. Everywhere we looked, there were YoYos. On the floor, all over the building, hung up on walls, placed in glass cases, and sitting on desks. It was an overall unique experience, and I was glad to meet everyone.
After leaving Sedona, we travelled to Las Vegas, where we gambled took Dad out for a birthday dinner and saw many artificially created wonders of the city. To sum it all up, we created a video slideshow of all our travels over the summer, and you can see it below.
The Narrows – After leaving Vegas, we weren’t done yet. Before we returned to Colorado, we had one last big adventure, and that was trekking 10 miles in the water through The Narrows in Zion National Park. This was a big hike, and I don’t think I’ll ever do another one like it. Rather than narrate our entire hike, I put together a video a while ago from the footage I took on my GoPro while hiking. You can view it on our Freejourners YouTube Channel, or through this link.
Returning to Colorado – Finished with our summer adventures, we headed back to Summit County, CO, where we moved from house to house while we waited for our main house that we’re currently living in to be ready. Isaac and I would go down the street to YoYoLoco to perform and work, teaching kids how to YoYo and getting friends into it. As I still worked for LaTiendaDelYoYo at that time, I would translate some stuff for them and in return periodically receive $300 in YoYos every month. I got some pretty cool YoYos, but nothing can last forever, and last month I stopped working for them. It was an amazing job, getting all those YoYos from Spain, learning more Spanish, and all for only a few hours of work per week. Continuing on our exercise spree that really kicked off this summer, I ran three times a week with Mom and Dad, running on various trails around the area, and around the town of Breckenridge. Below is a video of Isaac performing outside YoYoLoco in September, which gathered quite a crowd of people.
Entering School – Back in Sedona, I had a talk with my parents about my education, and the result was that I agreed to attend Summit High School back in Breckenridge, so I could experience not just high school, but public school in general, and agreed that it would be the best strategical move for my education, at least for this school year. When we returned to Summit County, after break had ended, my life completely changed, at least comparatively to the past 3 years. The first few days were a bit of a struggle, with me waking up at times that I’d never woken up at in my life, at least not consistently. I pushed myself through the first quarter of the school year with decent grades and (hopefully) a good reputation. The first semester just came to a close, and the final days before, well, finals, were a bit… hectic. I stayed up past midnight on multiple occasions, studying for a single class, and then not studying at all for another. I just received my grades back, and I discovered I finished the semester with 5 4.0’s (equivalent to an A+ in letter grades) and 2 3.5’s (equivalent to a A/A- in letter grades), and since my AP Computer Science class is weighted, and all 3.5’s round to 4’s, I finished with a GPA above a 4.0.
Making the soccer team – In an unexpected plot twist occurring in my life, I made the decision to try out for the school soccer team, and made the team with only a single hour of practice before tryouts. I hadn’t played since fall 2015 (in Nashville), and I hadn’t played competitively since fall 2014 (in Austin). You could say I was a bit rusty. When I finished the fall 2014 season, I honestly thought that would be where my soccer life ended, having played around 8 years of soccer. Nashville was kind of a bonus thing for me, where I was the only decently good player on the team (well, there were two others, but they were injured and for most of the season seemed to only play at 60% of their potential) and scored 6 goals a game. So, you can imagine, making a high school JV soccer team with having not progressed my skills in two years was a bit of a surprise to me. The season started out slow, with me only getting a few minutes of playing time per game, but sped up in the sense that I got more playing time later in the season, and I ended up playing around 90% of the game for the last few games. I never scored, but if I decide to try out again next year, I plan on changing that.
Snowboarding Season – Getting back on the mountain was a pleasant experience, and it helped take my mind off school for at least a few hours per day and relax (well, as relaxed as you can be while spinning off 30+ foot jumps and speeding down the mountain at speeds topping local speed limits). Uncle Mike and Grandma and Grandpa Cortez came into town to see us and that added some excitement to my stereotypical days at school. I enjoyed seeing Uncle Mike and shredding the slopes with him once again, and it’s always an amazing time when Grandma and Grandpa are here. On the mountain, I’ve already progressed so much, further supporting my belief that this year is my “big year” where I can finally take off in competition, place high in races, and take my tricks to bigger rotations and off bigger jumps.
Finishing off the year with a bang, Isaac and Jadyn competed in the New Years Eve rail jam, which was basically a big party. Loud music, fireworks, food and friends all came together to create a truly memorable experience.
Overall (I need a replacement word for this…. I use it way too much), 2016 was a memorable year (well, every year is memorable to me in some way, as I’ve only had 15 of them…), with many new experiences, traveling to new places, acquiring new skills, and many fun-filled days. I’ll look back on 2016 and see a year filled with growth, learning, fun, and traveling. Thanks, Mom and Dad, for always being the adventurous parents you are and exposing us to so many unique places. I really appreciate it.