Centre alums plow headfirst into the world of winter sports
For Adam Blandford ’07, Adam Clark ’07 and Jeremy Ware ’07 — three former Centre football standouts — life took an unexpected turn after graduation. The three alumni currently are preparing for the national trials of the U.S. bobsledding and skeleton teams.
It was Ware’s initial curiosity about the sport that piqued the trio’s interest.
“I first became interested while at Centre in 2006. I saw skeleton in the winter Olympics and knew I had to do it one day,” Ware says. “After I left Centre I played semi-pro football for a season. We won a national championship and, at that point, I felt it was time to move on athletically. I remembered skeleton and started looking at how to get involved in it. That’s when I told the Adams they should look into bobsled.”
Blandford and Clark were intrigued with the idea — after a little hesitation.
“I thought Jeremy was kidding when he told us he wanted to try out skeleton, because he would have to be crazy to go down a track 75 miles per hour headfirst,” Blandford says. “I was wrong. Jeremy convinced Adam Clark to go to a bobsled/skeleton combine. As soon as I found out Adam was going, I submitted an application because there was no way I was staying behind and missing out on that adventure.”
The three submitted athlete profiles on the recruitment page of the U.S. Bobsled and Skeleton Federation (USBSF), and it’s all been downhill from there — literally.
“We got invited out for a combine — a series of tests designed to screen athletes’ potential in the sport,” Blandford says. “Based on combine scores, you can be invited back for the National Push Championships, where we re-combine with all the other perspective athletes and national team members and then take timed pushes behind a sled. At that point, coaches and pilots start putting together the two- and four-man teams.”
Pushing the bobsleds at the combine was nerve-wrecking for the Centre alums, who were still very new to the sport.
“At that point, I had never participated in bobsled before — I’d only seen it on TV,” Clark. “There, I learned the basics of the sport, took part in USA bobsled team’s combine and, most importantly, got to experience what it’s like to ‘slide’ firsthand.”
At the upcoming nationals, Clark will be pushing for Cory Butner, ranked third among all bobsled drivers — also known as pilots — in the United States. The pilots and coaches ultimately decide the fate of the athletes pushing for them.
“Each team consists of a pilot and three push athletes. All four people will participate in the four-man competition, but only the driver and the push athlete of his choice will compete in the two-man race,” Clark explains. “After the national trials, the coaches will name the top two teams as the 2011 USA National Team.”
According to Clark, the biggest hurdle many bobsled athletes face is finding funding.
“Enough sponsorship exists to cover expenses for the top two teams, but it’s left up to other teams to fund much of their season on their own,” he says. “We pay for all of our own airfare, hotels, food, rental cars, shipping expenses for the sleds and equipment. We’re constantly looking for sponsorship, but it’s tough right now.”
Besides the adrenaline rush of racing at such high speeds, Clark has found the camaraderie of bobsledding very meaningful.
“More than anything else, I like being part of a team again. That’s something that you kind of lose after college sports are over,” he says. “Sharing the wins and the losses with your teammates is something I really miss.”
“So far the best part about bobsled, besides the huge adrenaline rush of sliding, has been going on this journey with my two best friends,” Ware says. “It’s not easy to quit your job and leave your friends, family and significant others to try to make the Olympics, but having them making the same sacrifice has made the experience even more amazing.”