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Senior Erin Pac Sets Sights On Olympics

A feature story 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 while recently making 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. She can do anything. It’s just up to her,” said head women’s track and field coach Jim Pennington.

Pac will now concentrate that drive and intensity on a new goal: Olympic athlete. Bobsledding “came out of the blue” for Pac this summer. She was home in Farmington, Connecticut enjoying the summer and training for the upcoming track and field season when Pennington received an email from the U.S. Bobsled and Skeleton Federation. It stated that the USBSF was holding open tryouts for anyone interested. Pac was and went to Northeastern University where she went through drills testing her speed, strength, and leaping ability. She was graded on each drill, and she easily met the required point total to qualify for a follow up tryout at the National team training facility in Lake Placid, NY.

The second tryout, one week before school started, was similar to the first with many of the same drills, and also like the first she impressed the coaching staff. This time enough to make the National team. “We have had many athletes tryout for the team this year. Erin is in the top 5 of all of them. We look for explosive athletes who have great speed. Erin has shown great potential in both areas,” said John Kaus, Women’s National Team Assistant Coach, about Pac’s performance at the tryouts in an email interview.

Since the sport of bobsled isn’t fixed in the mainstream of American sports as football or basketball it often has to recruit athletes from other sports. Track and field, soccer, and field hockey are the sports that best produce athletes with the strength and explosive speed needed for bobsled. As a result of the late starts most athletes have little experience in a bobsled. In Pac’s case, her first time in a bobsled will be this weekend. She will be spending today through Sunday in Calgary for her first training session with the National team, followed by a competition versus a Canadian bobsled team.

She understands the learning curve and potential danger ahead of her but like with everything she’s encountered she’s attacking it. “It’s a thrill ride. It’s like a roller coaster, but it goes 85 miles per hour, and you’re not strapped in…If the bobsled tips over I only have a helmet protecting me. It’s very scary, but that’s part of the thrill,” Pac says about the first run down in the bobsled.

Now that she’s made the team it’s just a question of how far she wants to go with it. The next Winter Olympics is in 2006 and Pac is shooting for it. “The next Olympics are in four years, and if I can keep training and doing well with the team I would like to stay with it through that. That would be my goal,” she says but not without forgetting to mention “Then I’d like to get back to (grad) school.”

“Anything worth having is worth working hard for,” is Pac’s favorite quote. Based on her accomplishments and work ethic that’s also how she lives her life.
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Head Coach Jim Pennington

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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