Roots: Charlotte Philkill

Hannah Herbst

At the root of a community is the people in it. Each cycle, one student from our community is chosen to be our root. Today’s root is Charlotte Philkill, a sophomore who has made a name for herself as a skilled and dedicated athlete.

Image courtesy of Charlotte Philkill

Hannah Herbst: Let’s start with your life in school. What classes do you take? 


Charlotte Philkill:  I take all the standard sophomore classes. I am taking ceramics right now, which is really fun. I didn’t take any Advanced Placement (AP) classes this year, but maybe next year. My schedule is really ramping up, so I’m trying to find a balance.


HH:  Tell me about what you do outside of school.


CP: I [play] a lot of different [sports]. My main one right now is mountain biking, but I was on the varsity water polo team. I’m training for the national mountain biking team. We have a couple races coming up. Then I have swim coming up in the spring, and I’ve been doing martial arts on top of that.


HH: Your decision not to take an AP class is obviously very smart! Okay, let’s start with waterpolo. What was it like to be a sophomore on varsity?


CP: It was really scary at first. I was scared of all of the girls because they have so much experience. I only played last year. I think the main reason I made it this year was kind of a lack of people and the want to grow the sophomore class. I wasn’t playing a lot in the games, but training was intense. [It was] very hardcore, but it was fun to play alongside the girls. They all have really good team spirit. 

I didn’t realize that biking could be so big. I didn’t know there was a national team until I heard about it from one of my teammates. 

HH: That’s awesome. Okay, so waterpolo and mountain biking are two very different sports. Let’s transition to that!


CP: I started mountain biking when I was 7 or 8. I think last year was my first on a big team for biking. That was also my first year racing. I had done maybe two individual races before that, but it was a big step up. It was kind of a shock that I even got onto the national team, because I didn’t think I was gonna make it, but it’s really fun. I mean, it’s crazy. I didn’t realize that biking could be so big. I didn’t know there was a national team until I heard about it from one of my teammates. 


HH: What does being on the national team mean in terms of requirements and training? 


CP:  I’m still kind of learning what being on the team means. A big part is representing your team sponsors, for example. It helps to elevate the entire team because it’s the only development team in the U.S. It means mentally committing to yourself and committing to your coaches. A lot of training starts at your base performance, and then grows from there. 


HH: And then on top of all this, you do martial arts, and have been doing it for quite some time. What does that entail? 


CP: I haven’t been going as much as I need to, but I started that when I was five. That’s what taught me how to stick to something and to be so committed to something. You have to get good, you’re always progressing, you have to commit to it and train at it. I got my first degree black belt when I was 11.


HH: Oh, wow, big deal.


CP: Yes, again, that was another big stepping stone that showed me what I can accomplish if I stick to something. I’m currently a third degree black belt. Something my instructor always said was “When you get to your black belt, that’s when you’re starting to train.” I think that that kind of corresponds to biking. Yes, I’m on the national team, but I think right now, this is when I’m starting to learn all the advanced stuff. I think I’ve mastered the basic foundation. You go uphill, then downhill, like you’re growing, you’re trying to get to these levels where you can do all these little precise things.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.