When it came to choosing a "fit kid" at Riverside School there were lots of options, but one name was on everyone's lips: Jasmine Whittaker.
Physical Education and Science teacher Joel Gilbert asked his colleagues for nominations and even teachers who haven't yet had her in class pointed to the fifth grader. "Even those teachers said, 'I don't teach her, but boy, Jasmine ... there's something about her!'" said Gilbert. "She's got that sparkle in her eyes."
Sitting down with Jasmine, I couldn't help but grin the whole time I was speaking with her -- she talks so fast her words tumble on top of each other, has a big smile, and is clearly excited by life.
And she loves sports.
"Yesterday I had soccer, today I have lacrosse, and on Thursday I also have lacrosse," she said. "And then on Fridays when the snow melts more I'm mountain biking." In the winter she skips a half day of school a few times a week to train as a ski racer.
"I feel like I have better days, too, the days when I take time in the morning to do a little workout -- push ups and stuff like that," Jasmine said. "[Sports are] a great way if you have something that's bothering you, you kind of forget about it. If you get really restless in the day, it's something you can do to not be as restless. And it helps you get your energy out."
She was introduced to a healthy, athletic lifestyle by her parents. Mom is a ski racer and Dad is a runner. They also keep a pescetarian (vegetarian plus fish) home, which is fine by Jasmine. "I learned from my parents that being a vegetarian is really healthy," she said. She tells a story of being tricked into eating some beef jerky by friends. "I ate it and I threw up all over the place. And I'm just like, I'm not eating that anymore!"
She knows what she likes to eat most, but don't try to corner her into telling you which sports she likes to play most. She thinks kids are pushed to choose a primary sport too young these days. "You shouldn't really have to choose your one main sport until you're in, like, eighth grade," she said. "You have to choose at a young age and I don't want to do that because I think I just need to see which sports I'm best at and are the best timing for me when I can focus more on them than other stuff. I think in a couple years I'll know my favorite sport."
Currently, she said, her top two sports are "probably skiing and lacrosse." Although downhill ski racing is starting to take a back seat to Nordic skiing after this season. "But I think I'm definitely going to ski race and have a good time because it's really fun."
Gilbert said that one of the things that makes Jasmine stand out is that she's well-rounded and also balanced. "We have kids who are so overbooked with athletics that they don't have time to sleep at night. She is just a very well-balanced kid. I know a lot of that comes from the support she gets at home with her parents and the athletics that they pursue. But a lot of it comes from her as well."