Racing to Her Degree

Meghan T. Sullivan is a World Campus Law and Society major from Bluemont, Virginia who is an Olympic hopeful for the U.S. Bobsled and Skeleton team. We recently had a chance to chat with her about her sport, school, and how she balances it all.

What is skeleton and how did you get involved?

I am on the U.S. Bobsled and Skeleton team, but the sport I do is skeleton, not many people have heard of it. It’s a sport where athletes run and jump on to a sled that resembles a lunch tray. Skeleton athletes also travel down the bobsled track but we do it alone, face first, with no sled to protect us.

I got into the sport after watching it on TV during the Vancouver Olympics in 2010. I wondered how someone got into such an obscure sport so I Googled it! I found the U.S. Bobsled and Skeleton’s (USBSF) recruitment page and sent them my information without telling my parents. A week later, I was invited to come try out. Finally, I told my parents and they encouraged me to give it a try. So I flew up to Lake Placid and passed the physical test with flying colors. My first selection race was the next year, and I made the team!

What is it like taking classes and being on the U.S. Bobsled and Skeleton team?

It’s really hard to travel and do school work. Last year I had to turn in a seven-page paper on the day of our selection races. I cannot procrastinate. In fact, I have to complete and turn in many assignments early so that competition does not interfere with school.

Here is my schedule from this summer:

7:00 a.m. – Eat and warm up for my first work out
9:00 a.m. – First workout
11:00 a.m. – Lunch and homework
1:00 p.m. – Second workout
4:00 p.m. – Go to work

Each day, instead of napping or going to sports medicine for rehabilitation like most athletes, I schedule homework. Sometimes I felt that I was at a disadvantage because many other athletes got more time to recover and get the most out of their workouts. However, I believe that school has made me much more efficient with my time. Despite the extra tasks I must complete, I continue to get better every day.

What is your most memorable athletic moment?

My most memorable moment would have to be after my first crash on the Olympic Track in Park City, Utah. I flipped on my sled going about 79 mph and got my first concussion. The flip in itself wasn’t the most memorable moment, but the first time I got back on the sled after my crash.

It was a couple days later but getting back in the saddle for skeleton is different than getting back on a horse after a fall. On a horse you can start by just getting on, and then walking, and trotting, cantering, and jumping whenever you’re comfortable. Skeleton however, once you hop on that sled you are going 75 mph whether you like it or not. You will cross the finish line no matter what, and unless you crash again, there is no getting off.

Standing at the start and looking down into the first turn was the scariest feeling ever but being brave… (or stupid!) enough to get back on the sled was one of the best athletic moments in my life. Biggest adrenaline rush I have ever had and I crossed the finish line wanting to hug myself!

What advice do you have for other students trying to balance school and other responsibilities?

The biggest secret to success is time management. If you plan time for homework you can get it done, along with other responsibilities.

Has being an athlete taught you anything important about life?

The biggest lesson I have learned from this is that people need to pursue their dreams. Even if I never reach my dream and goal of going to the Olympics, the pursuit of that dream has made my life beautiful. It has led me to many wonderful people and foreign places that I might not otherwise had the opportunity to go to.

In the past few years, I have slid in Innsbruck, Austria; Winterberg, Germany; Salt Lake City, Utah; Lake Placid, New York; Calgary, Canada; and Whistler, from the Vancouver Olympics in Canada. In Whistler, I broke my top speed record at 83 mph!

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