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Non-school sports meet students’ interests

Providence offers a wide variety of extracurricular activities to meet its students’ interests and talents, from athletics and theatre to Math Team and Pinterest Club. Some students have interests they pursue outside of school, whether in addition to school activities or as a solo pursuit. This profile includes two seniors who qualified for the High School eSports League Championship in Texas, siblings who enjoy their family ski tradition, and a freshman making her own way in the sport of bouldering.

Siblings love to ski with family

Skiing is family tradition for junior Ella Unruh and her brother, Cade, a sophomore. Their extended family takes a ski trip around Christmas every year, and they learned to ski when they were young. With a life of experience, they can now ski black diamond trails, which offer the highest level of difficulty. This Christmas break, they traveled with their dad’s family to Big Sky Montana for an eight-day trip that included five days of skiing.

The siblings said they love to ski, especially with their family. Cade said he most enjoyed the challenge of the black diamond trails as well as the terrain parks, recreation areas where skiers, snowboarders, and snowbikers can do tricks. But he also made time to ski on the easier slopes in order to spend time with more family members. For him, part of the enjoyment is the scenery.

“It’s amazing to be around the mountains and witness God’s creation,” Cade said.

Ella agrees.

“My favorite part of the trip is how absolutely beautiful the mountains are and that I was blessed with the ability to spend time with the people I love most,” she said.

Ella said she was especially grateful that this trip, the group of 17 was able to stay in a “’ski and ski out’ house, which basically means you can put your ski gear on from the back porch and ski back to the porch effortlessly.”

Being able to put on her gear right from the house was especially helpful because of the extremely cold temperatures this trip, with the temperature -10 degrees at the top of the mountain and 0 degrees at the bottom where the lifts are, Ella said, adding that “layers are very important!” With the proper gear, the temperatures didn’t stop their enjoyment since it provides enough exercise to stay warm.

“What I love about skiing is how you get a good workout while getting to ski the mountain tops and witness the most perfect view with every few feet you travel,” Ella said.

Seniors advance to national esports competition

Seniors Kaden Connin and Zach Van Wie have each qualified as individuals for the High School eSports League Championship in Arlington, Texas, in May. Zach helped found the Providence eSports Club last year, but this year the club doesn’t have a faculty sponsor, so he and Kaden continued to compete as individuals.

Kaden placed third in Minecraft, and Zach placed third in Chess based on their individual scores. The league will pay $250 of their travel expenses, and they will compete in the eSports Stadium for college scholarships totaling $150,000.

Kaden said he has been interested in esports since he was young because he enjoys the competition inherent to video games. His interest increased as he watched esports competitions online and decided to join the PHS club last year to play Minecraft, which he has been playing for fun since 2013 and competitively since early 2021.

He usually plays the game a couple hours a day, but if he’s preparing for a tournament – through the eSports League or other online tournaments – he may play as long as five hours.

Playing Minecraft competitively isn’t too much different than playing casually, Kaden said. The game is the same but the level of skill is usually higher, however. That makes the game even more fun and the pleasure of winning even greater.

Zach also likes the competitive aspect of esports. Like Kaden, he was already playing chess online, and “being able to play them (esports) in a very competitive environment makes the experience extremely rewarding,” he said. He qualified for the chess nationals by placing third place in the Fall Major Chess Tournament.

Zach grew interested playing chess a couple years ago after watching a livestream of someone playing. It took him a few months to play the game himself, but ever since, it has been his favorite hobby.

“I enjoy playing chess because no matter how talented or untalented you are, you can always work to get better,” Zach said, adding that he spends about 45 minutes every day playing chees. “I have watched videos, reviewed top level games, and worked with computers to try to increase my performance.”

His practice is paying off. He ranks in the 95th percentile of all players who play on chess.com.

Zach said winning is fun, but he would play to improve even if he weren’t playing esports.

“For me, there is not a very big difference between playing chess for fun and playing it in eSports tournaments,” Zach said. “I always try to win and get better, so I treat all of my games the same.

Freshman climbs for sport

Freshman Emme Harris keeps climbing and strength training for the day she can once again compete with her former team at Climb Nulu. She trains in the sport of bouldering, a type of rock climbing but with shorter walls and no lead rope. Before the pandemic, she was on a team of Louisville-area teenagers and had developed her skills to a somewhat advanced level, placing as high as second in competitions.

She got started in the sport several years ago when her older sister took her with her. Her sister had been bouldering for several years and was happy to introduce Emme to it. Emme took to it right away and continued learning the basics and joined the team at Climb Nulu even after her sister quit the sport.

Emme said she enjoys bouldering because it’s a year-round sport she can enjoy regardless of the weather. When she was competing, the competition aspect was seasonal, but the team continued to meet and train all year. She also enjoyed all the friends she made.

“They are just so accepting,” she said. “It doesn’t matter your age or anything. I love it.”

She misses meeting and training with her friends on a regular basis. They used to climb three to four times a week as well as do activities together, including a team lock-in at the gym. She still climbs two or three days a week for two hours at a time. Most of those times the coaches from her old team are also climbing, so they continue to give her tips. Emme also does strength training five to six days a week at home.

In the four years Emme has been bouldering, she has advanced from the V0, or beginner level, to the V6 or 7 level, which is considered advanced. The top level is V17 and rarely achieved, and most people climb at the V4 level, she said.

Emme said the team hopes to regroup in the summer and start competing again, something she is eager to happen. In the meantime, she keeps training for the simple enjoyment of climbing – and because her sister keeps cheering her on.

“I just love it, and she likes how good I’m doing especially since she can’t do it anymore,” Emme said. “She wants me to keep doing it and keeps telling me how good I’m doing. It’s just fun.”

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