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Monument Elementary student Ian Prince tries out Paralympic hopeful Betsey Hurley’s ski during Hurley’s visit to the school on Thursday. (Derek Carson)
Monument Elementary student Ian Prince tries out Paralympic hopeful Betsey Hurley’s ski during Hurley’s visit to the school on Thursday. (Derek
Monument Elementary student Ian Prince tries out Paralympic hopeful Betsey Hurley’s ski during Hurley’s visit to the school on Thursday. (Derek Carson)

BENNINGTON -- Paralympic alpine skiing hopeful Betsy Hurley stopped by Monument Elementary School on Thursday to speak to children about her journey, her training, and the importance of hard work.

Along with Jamie and Amy Carey of Anytime Fitness in Bennington, where Hurley does much of her training, Hurley gave her presentation first to kindergarten through second grade students at 1:30, and then to third grade through fifth grade students at around 2:30.

Hurley was born with a condition called spina bifida, which has paralyzed her from the waist down, and made her unable to walk. She attended Molly Stark Elementary School and graduated from Mount Anthony Union High School in 2000.

Principal Donna Cauley was a teacher at Molly Stark Elementary School when Hurley attended; in fact, Cauley described Hurley, who was in sixth grade at the time, as "a huge mentor" to one of her second grade students.

When one of the first-graders in the audience expressed shock that Cauley had once taught at Molly Stark, the principal laughed and said, "I've had other lives too, you know!"

Hurley told the children of her inspiration to start skiing. When she was 9 years old, she was watching the Olympics with her parents when she saw Paralympic skier Sarah Will. "We've all seen TV shows, movies, and we want to be like the people in them. Well, I wanted to be like Sarah. "

Will was inducted into the United States Olympic Hall of Fame in 2009, after an 11-year Paralympic career in which she won 13 medals, 12 of them gold.

Importance of education

Hurley also talked about the importance of education. One of her closest friends in the skiing world had decided to start training full-time after high school. Hurley had decided to go to college instead. She graduated from Springfield College with a degree in recreational therapy, a career she is excited to pursue once her racing career is over.

Students had the opportunity to look at Hurley's ski, as well as some of the medals she'd won. One student, Ian Prince, was able to get strapped into the ski.

Cauley also announced a coin drive to help support Hurley's quest to reach the 2014 Paralympic Games in Russia. "There is a connection," said Cauley, "they're going to be learning some math with these pennies, because they're going to be counting them." This announcement was met with good cheer from the younger crowd, while the older one let out a collective groan at the mention of math.

In each presentation, Hurley told the students her story, and then asked for questions from the audience. Questions from the older group ranged from how many medals has she won (around 50 gold medals in skiing, which drew a collective "wow" from the audience), what she does when she's nervous before a race (listens to music), her favorite mountain to ski (Bromley Mountain), and her practice schedule (Tuesday through Sunday, with Mondays off). The younger group was more concerned about her favorite color (purple), and telling their own stories about skiing, sledding, or sports in general.

One young girl was proud of the fact that she had raced her sister at skiing, and won by "two miles." "I don't care though," the girl said, "because it was just for fun."

Derek Carson can be reached at dcarson@benningtonbanner.com. Follow him on Twitter @DerekCarsonBB.