Under pressure: too many activities, too little time

Chen-You Wu ‘20 says mastering two fields has a downside

Chen-You+Wu+%2720+speeds+toward+the+finish+line+at+the+MCV+divisional+race+in+2015
Chen-You Wu '20 speeds toward the finish line at the MCV divisional race in 2015

Chen-You Wu '20 speeds toward the finish line at the MCV divisional race in 2015

Chen-You Wu '20 speeds toward the finish line at the MCV divisional race in 2015

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Chen-You Wu is no stranger to success. He achieved first chair at the Southeast Iowa Bandmasters Association Honor Band and competed in the Washburn Classic State Cross Country meet at the young age of 13, all the while maintaining excellent grades. But even for the coolest of heads, keeping up with two passions during the all-important high school years is no walk in the park. Just ask Wu.

“Starting this year, I’ve been getting swamped with a ton of homework which cuts into my clarinet time,” he said. “That sucks for me, because we have to commit to cross country practice. We’re not allowed to just skip practice.”

Wu describes his afternoons as a redundant cycle of cross country practice, homework, and, if he has the time, clarinet practice. Wu has been playing clarinet since he was first introduced in fifth grade. Even then, his teachers knew he was something special.

”One day, my band teacher at my elementary told me ‘Hey, I don’t think you should go into 5th grade band, I think you should skip right to 6th grade band!’ That’s what really propelled me into the more ‘elite’ group,” Wu said.  (Watch Wu perform “Nocturne” here)

But music isn’t the only thing at which he excels. In seventh grade, Wu joined the Northwest Junior High cross country team, “because why-not?” and ended up falling in love with the social aspect of the sport.

“I would honestly say that my bond with my cross country teammates is a lot tighter than my bond with my fellow musicians, just because during cross practice you get time to mess around and joke a lot, where in band we’re just trying to get stuff done.”

Wu’s friend, Raymond Yang ‘20, shares a similar opinion.

Wu talks with his teammates on the starting line of the MCV Divisional race in 2015

“Cross country isn’t an easy sport, and we work together to finish workouts. Last year in cross country, [Wu and I] were very close ability-wise and pushed each other forward during races,” Yang said. “It definitely strengthened our friendship.”

Despite sticking with the sport to spend time with friends, Wu was eventually invited to run in the state meet because of his stellar race times.

“One of my best memories of cross country was in seventh grade when Mr. Kuepker told me ‘Chen-You, you’re gonna run in the state meet,’” he recalled. ”At the time, I knew I was decent, but I didn’t know I was that good.”

Wu had no difficulty keeping up with his two passions during junior high, but when he entered West, that all changed.

“Sometimes if I have too much stuff, I’ll just do the stuff that’s critical and shove off the other stuff so I can just go play my clarinet to help me relax,” he said. “I have to practice, but I do it willingly.” 

In addition to being a source of relaxation, band has also contributed to one of Wu’s strongest friendships.

“I didn’t meet Chen-You in band,” explains close friend of Wu Chris Kim ’20, “but since we both liked music, we ended up in most of the same honor bands and eventually the bands at West. I think that the involvement together and how we had a lot in common later helped us become great friends.”

Wu may be tightly wound when it comes to his music and academics, but his friends say it’s not an issue.

“During class [Wu] is normally serious but during outside hours he’s more laid back and relaxed and can be funny,” Yang said. 

Wu plans on pursuing clarinet through high school and beyond, but when it comes to cross country, he’s not so sure.

“Because of how many things I’m juggling, I don’t think I will continue cross country next year. I hope I can work something out with coach, though, because I really do enjoy hanging out with my cross country family.”

Wu may be dropping cross country next year, but he certainly won’t be dropping his teammates.

“I’ll definitely miss being with my friends everyday and that family atmosphere of the team. I’ll miss going to meets and cheering on my teammates and watching the race. I’ll definitely keep the friends I have, though.”

 

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