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Pac On A Different Track To Fulfilling Olympic Dreams

By Marc Perry

It’s 10 o’clock inside Babson Library on Sunday night. Springfield College senior Erin Pac sits across the table from me as I interview her. Her blonde hair is tied back, exuberant hazel eyes hide behind her brown-rimmed glasses, and when she talks, her soft voice is interrupted only by short, innocent giggles. About the only thing cluing me into her athletic prowess is the white cross training shoes on her feet and the white t-shirt with ‘Connecticut Track & Field Championships’ written across it. As I flip back through the half dozen pages of notes in my notebook, there is one question repeating over and over in my head: “Where’s the intensity?”

Where’s the intensity that fueled her to recently make the Women’s National Bobsled team? Where’s the determination that allowed her to win the New England Championship in the heptathlon, which led to a 10th-place finish at the NCAA Division III Championship as a junior?

Well it was there; it just took some asking around. Boyfriend of nearly two years Matt Tuthill said, “She’s intense. She’s the most dedicated athlete I’ve ever met. When she’s going out there, she’s going for broke, and she wants to win.”

“She has the drive, and can do anything,” said women’s track and field coach Jim Pennington. “It’s just up to her.”

Bobsledding “came out of the blue” for Pac while she was enjoying her summer at home in Farmington, Connecticut. Pennington told her about an email he received from the U.S. Bobsled and Skeleton Federation stating that they were holding open tryouts for anyone interested.

Pac traveled to Northeastern University where she was tested on her speed, strength, and leaping abilities. Easily meeting the required point total to qualify for a follow-up tryout, Pac was invited to the National team training facility in Lake Placid, NY. A week before classes were scheduled to start, Pac again impressed the coaching staff enough to earn a spot on the National team.

“We had many athletes tryout for the team this year and Erin was in the top-five,” said Women’s National Team Assistant Coach John Kaus. “We look for explosive athletes who have great speed and Erin has shown great potential in both areas.”

Still a growing sport in this country, bobsled athletes have come from a wide variety of backgrounds with little to no experience in a sled. Pac’s first time in a bobsled was last December in a week-long training session with the National Team, followed by a competition versus the Canadian bobsled team.

She understands the learning curve and potential danger ahead of her. Even despite a concussion she suffered after a crash in Lake Placid during a training run, like everything else, she’s attacking it head-on.

“It’s like a roller coaster, but it goes 85 miles per hour, and you’re not strapped in,” said Pac. “If the bobsled tips over, you only have a helmet to protect you. It’s very scary, but that’s part of the thrill.”

In January, Pac and teammate Shauna Robuck pushed USA 2 to a 13th-place finish out of 22 teams at a World Cup race in Austria. After a week of training, Pac traveled with the team to Winterberg, Germany for the World Championships.

Now that she’s made the team, it’s just a question of how far she wants to go. Pac has her sights set on the next Winter Olympics in 2006.

“The next Olympics are in four years. If I can keep training and doing well with the team, that would be my goal,” said Pac, but not without forgetting to mention “Then I’d like to get back to (grad) school.”

Pac’s favorite quote is ‘Anything worth having is worth working hard for.’ Based on her accomplishments and work ethic, that’s also how she lives her life.

Marc Perry is a writer for the Springfield Student.
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Jim Pennington Jim Pennington enters his 30th season as head coach of the Springfield College women’s cross country and track and field teams in 2013-2014. Under Pennington’s direction, the Pride has recorded seven top 20 finishes at the NCAA Indoor and Outdoor Track & Field Championships, and seven top 15 finishes at the NCAA Cross Country Championships. Read more.

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