Sports

A player for all seasons

For most high school boys, being a three-sport athlete means football in fall, basketball or wrestling in the winter and baseball in the spring.

Olympic High School junior Nick Bankus is one such three-sport star, helping the Trojans on the football field and the baseball diamond. But when it comes to winter, this Trojan hits the slopes solo.

Bankus has been a competitive skier since the age of 6. That was after he had already been skiing for two years. And now, the 17-year-old is tearing up the United States Ski and Snowboard Association (USSA) in his age group.

Bankus, who just competed in the 2005 Chevrolet Alpine Junior 2 Olympics in mid-March, takes his sports seriously.

“Football is more just something I do for fun,” Bankus said. “Baseball and skiing are both really competitive for me. I hate losing in them.”

Which is why Bankus wasn’t as pleased with his performance at the J2 Olympics, held in Sugarloaf, Maine on March 9 to 13.

Bankus finished 11th in the slalom at the competition, putting in an overall time of 1 minute, 40.05 seconds. He also took 20th in the downhill competition (not one of his usual events) and 23rd in the super-G.

In the giant slalom, a rough spill kept him from finishing the race.

“That one hurt, really hurt,” Nick’s dad Larry Bankus said. “I mean physically, it hurt. It rattled his cage pretty good.”

But despite the setback, Bankus still ranks among the best in the nation in his age group. Currently, Bankus is ranked sixth in the slalom, 16th in the giant slalom and 29th in the super-G.

“I wasn’t too happy with it,” Bankus said. “I had higher expectations coming into it. I couldn’t get as much training in this winter as I would have liked to.”

The same winter drought that has kept Washington slopes bare has taken its toll on his training, he said. But that hasn’t stopped him from continuing to compete.

Bankus will travel to Mammoth Mountain, Calif. on Friday for the FIS Elite Spring Series, which continues through Wednesday, April 13. He will then fly back up on Thursday, April 14, for Olympic’s home baseball game against South Kitsap. The very next day he’ll hit the road again, this time bound for Mt. Bachelor and the Northwest Cup/J3 Finals that begin April 15.

“My ski coach and most of the team is going from Mammoth Mountain to Bachelor for the last race,” he said. “I’ll fly back here for my game and then drive back down to Bachelor.”

Olympic baseball coach Nate Andrews said that’s just part of the dedication and work ethic that has made Bankus an exceptional athlete.

“He’s an awesome athlete,” Andrews said. “His work ethic is superior to every kid we have. You can come in with so much talent, but he puts in the time in the weight room, in practice. He really goes after it. And he’s very modest too. He doesn’t ever brag. It makes him more likable to the other kids.”

Andrews also said he hopes some of those traits will rub off on some of his other players.

“He’s become a leader in a lot of ways,” Andrews said. “He was quiet and shy when he first got here. But he enjoys being around all the guys. And they should want to emulate him.”

For Olympic, Bankus suits up as a left-handed pitcher and outfielder for the Trojans baseball squad.

“The skills he has he’s been able to hone,” Andrews said. “And a pitcher, anytime you have a lefty, you’re happy. And he’s not just a good pitcher, but a great hitter and a solid outfielder too.”

Bankus is used to wearing many hats. For the football team, he is a quarterback, defensive back and an All-Narrows League Second Team punter. He said despite all the positions, he really doesn’t change his mental approach.

“For baseball and football, I don’t really mentally prepare,” Bankus said. “It’s just something I go out and do. With skiing, I just try not to get caught up in the moment.”

To balance his year-round athletic schedule (Bankus also plays summer baseball for the Trojans), Bankus took some independent study summer courses that helped him get some of his junior-year education out the way. But he says whenever he has to miss time for a race, he still feels a little behind.

“I did summer school so I didn’t have as many classes,” he said. “But I still have to catch up on a lot. When I come back, I always just want to relax. It makes me study more when I get back.”

Bankus is just as disciplined in the classroom as he is outside of

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