Amherst’s Willy Wright is a man for all seasons

  • Willy Wright, left, of Amherst Regional, moves the ball against Sam Ohotnicky, of Northampton, Monday in Northampton. GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Willy Wright, third from left, of Amherst Regional, stands on the podium after placing third at the state nordic freestyle championships last week. GAZETTE STAFF/KYLE GRABLOWSKI

  • Amherst Regional senior Willy Wright, shown competing as a junior, placed third at the state nordic skiing championship last week. COURTESY AMHERST NORDIC


For the Gazette
Thursday, March 08, 2018

AMHERST — Athletes usually remember their first time picking up a bat or putting on a helmet. Those memories are reminders of where the passion for sports came from.

For Amherst Regional senior Willy Wright, those memories can be traced back to the cross-country skiing trails in central Vermont’s Green Mountains, where at 2 years old, Wright’s athletic career began to take shape.

Now, 16 years later, Wright has just one season of high school sports left in a career that as been filled with athletics. He competed all four years for the cross country team in the fall and recently finished his final season on the Nordic ski team.

While he’s looking forward to a fourth and final lacrosse season, the time has gone by quickly.

“Starting skiing growing up in Vermont, that’s a really big piece of why I started doing sports and training,” Wright said. “After skiing my whole life, and now this being my last year, there’s definitely a little bit of nostalgia.”

Wright’s Nordic ski season came to an end last week at Berkshire East, where he placed third overall in the state Nordic freestyle championship, a 5-kilometer race that featured over 250 skiers. Wright’s place matched the best finish ever by an Amherst boys skier.

The accolades are nothing new to Willy’s father, Jim, who has seen all four of his children follow the same three-sport path through high school. Jim said Willy’s demeanor trumps his talent.

“It’s a discipline thing. He prioritizes things, keeps track of what he needs to do, and he sticks with it,” Jim Wright said. “He can always adapt to what’s happening around him. If his workload increases with the academic stuff, he can cut back on the athletic side. But through different parts of the year, he’s always multitasking.”

Lacrosse is Willy’s best sport. He has 155 career points on 126 goals and 29 assists. He scored 60 goals last year for the Hurricanes. While he boasts numerous recognitions in Nordic competition, skiing is more about family than it is about competition.

Willy and his siblings Isaac, 21, Grace, 23, and Hannah, 27, all started skiing when they were young. The four started in the Bill Koch Ski League, a cross-country skiing league with multiple levels of competition. Jim Wright, who volunteered in the league, equated it to Little League baseball in terms of connecting the community.

When the family moved to Amherst prior to Willy’s freshman year of high school, he was unsure of how he’d acclimate to his new surroundings. Playing sports helped him do just that.

“It was quite a change coming here and not knowing anyone, but I think doing sports made it a lot easier to make friends,” Willy said. “I think that’s one of the good things about playing different sports. It definitely helped me.”

Jim Wright called it the best way to “get plugged in” in a new place.

The combination of cross country running, Nordic skiing and lacrosse seems atypical, but because of the stamina and endurance demanded by each, they compliment each other.

“I really try to use components of each to help me in the others,” Willy Wright said. “They all require fitness, and you really need to have an engine in all of them. I think I use that to my advantage.”