It may be hard to imagine being enthusiastic about snow in the middle of a cold February in Cleveland, but 13-year-old Will Schneider seems to be just fine with it.
“It’s such a rush going through the forest, about 30 miles an hour sometimes, going down hills. It’s fun being out in the snow with my friends and racing,” Will said.
In fact, living in this climate has given him an opportunity to compete in the kids’ version of the Olympic Games.
Will Schneider started cross-country skiing before most of us enrolled in kindergarten.
And today, the athlete travels to Russia with nine other Cleveland area pre-teens to compete in the International Children’s Games.
Will’s father Robert Schneider said that he happened across the Hilltoppers cross-country ski team one day when he was out skiing with his family at Alpine Valley. A group of six were being coached by Tom Cook and Will and his father joined in.
“It was a good match for Will,” said his father. “He’s a small kid and he’s fast, and he found a sport he can excel in.”
Plus, said the Ruffing Montessori seventh-grader, he’s made some great friends on the team.
The kids started out learning to move across the terrain, and as they got older, began to move faster, then race.
And rather than sit in the lodge while his son took lessons, Schneider joined in on the fun, too.
“It’s a very family-oriented activity. You can get out in the snow instead of hiding from it,” he said.
Five years ago, Robert Schneider joined the coaching ranks of the Hilltoppers — which has grown from six kids when Will joined to around 60 now. Ten coaches wrangle the kids, who are as young as three and as old as college-aged.
The kids going to Ufa, Russia are ages 12 to 14. The International Children’s Games, sanctioned by the International Olympic Committee, were held in Cleveland in 2004.
In the Winter Games, kids from around the globe will compete in hockey, cross-country and downhill skiing, figure skating, ice skating races, orienteering and snowboarding.