Posted on Friday April 9, 2010
Currently, the C-School You Later toboggan team from Wayfinder Schools of Camden, Maine is a member of an elite club of national champions, which includes the likes of the New York Yankees and New Orleans Saints. Yes indeed, we are national champions!
While the attendance at the National Toboggan Championships at the Camden Snow Bowl this past weekend may pale in comparison to the millions who tuned into the World Series and Super Bowl, the character it took to endure single digit temperatures over the course of a full weekend and to continually accept the reality of climbing onto a thin slab of wood with a few of your closest friends and being shot out of an icy chute at 40-50 miles an hour across a frozen lake with no clear way of knowing how or when you were going to stop at the very least provides the rest of us ordinary champions with a sound and deserving reason to feel proud of ourselves.
Ian Betts (a student at Wayfinder Schools who did not participate in the race but stood chute-side all the while cheering on his classmates) explains, “It was a cold and long experience. It took a lot of guts for people to go 40 miles per hour and get shot out onto a frozen lake. However, I also questioned the intelligence of having that many vehicles on the ice.” Ian then went on to say, “I was definitely concerned for my friends. I mean it was pretty dangerous. But then I was really happy for them afterwards.”
Khia Newell (a member of the all-women’s, four-person, “fastest high school” team called C-School You Later) explained: “I guess I never realized that tobogganing was that popular. At first I was really scared. But it was so exciting. I definitely couldn’t have done it without all of my good friends around me.”
Natalie Paul (another member of C-School You Later) added: “It was so fun. I can’t wait to do it again. We were all almost seriously injured. But then we got better each time we went. I just buried my face in Karen’s back and held on with all my might.”
Tyler Sabattis (the front-man of The C-School Express, which finished second in the fastest high school category behind C-School You Later) offered his perspective by saying: “It seemed like we kept getting 8.8 seconds all day long. But there was so much competition there that my team (The C-School Express) just wanted to make the cut and get our name up on the Finals Board.”
Jake Schmidt, (an intern at Wayfinder Schools and member of The C-School Express,) noted, “It was definitely a rush being thrown down a chute of ice at 50 miles per hour. I was pretty cramped. But it was so much fun.”
Zech McIntosh (C-School Express) agreed: “It was fun, scary, and dangerous,” he said. “And I’m glad I did it.”
Joseph Hufnagel (the Director of the Residential Program at Wayfinder Schools and humble member of the less accomplished Mountain Donkey toboggan team) beamed: “I am so proud of these kids,” he said. “What a special group! When we first started talking about the idea of entering a couple of sleds into the National Toboggan Championships, I received some strange and peculiar looks. But then we watched a few You Tube clips and started getting excited about the idea of being a part of something that seemed just crazy enough to be fun.”
“Initially, our competitive juices were turned inward and against one another,” Hufnagel continued. “First it was the girls’ sled versus the boys’ sled and then it quickly turned into the students’ sleds versus the staffs’ sleds. Who knows? Perhaps it was the Legend of Granny’s Sled that served to unify us in a way once race day rolled around.”
What Hufnagel is alluding to actually emanates from a true story in which Jen Durato (a member of The Mountain Donkeys) purchased an old, creaky Sears Roebucks sled for $5 a few days before the race from a ninety year old woman who proceeded to explain to her how the last time she was on it, as a little girl, “the sled just kept going and going…down the hill, through the corn field, through the apple orchard, through the wheat field. It just kept going and going.’ Or so she said. Anyway, we all wound up sharing Granny’s Sled and it actually wound up being pretty fast,” Hufnagel explained.
Alix McLean (a Residential Overnight Counselor at Wayfinder Schools and member of The Mountain Donkeys) shared, “There have been moments throughout this term when I have thought to myself, “I am doing something right now that I may never feel comfortable doing alone”. But in the presence of this amazing community of students and staff, I have felt surprisingly connected, comforted, and grateful to find myself surrounded by these great individuals and in the midst of this incredible adventure that we seem to be on together.”
Cathy Ames (the culinary instructor at Wayfinder Schools and proud member of the C-School Express) observed: “That may have been the craziest 8.8 seconds of my life. As we were sliding and spinning around across the ice it was so quiet and intense, and I just kept hoping that nobody was going to let go. “
When asked what made them get back on the toboggan and do it again after they crashed so badly the first time, Khia Newell (C-School You Later) explained: “Cause we wanted to bring it home and finish what we started. I don’t think our school has ever had a trophy before and now we do. I guess I just wanted to be able to say that we won.”
Khia later went on to add: “When we woke up on Sunday morning we weren’t going to do it. But then we realized that there was no point in stopping there because we hadn’t really accomplished anything yet. I guess we just really wanted to finish what we started.”
Laughingly, Billie Pirruccello (C-School You Later) added: “It was so scary getting back on the sled again after we crashed the first time. We were all pretty sore and bruised, but then we thought, well it’s nothing that can’t be fixed.”
Karen Johnson (C-School You Later) recalled: “The scariest part for me was having to go down first before the boys’ sled. Go girls! It was exciting. It got tiring and we got pretty beat up. I was definitely happy to be done when it was all over. But now I’m thinking that we all need to meet back here again next year. Or at least all the girls are gonna have to come back to kick some butt again.”
Eric Knight echoed this sentiment. “Was it worth it?” he asked. “Let me put it this way, I think I got frostbite on my legs and I never even went down the chute myself. But I think it was worth it. Next year our C-School Reunion sled is going to have to come back to defend our title.”
Tyler Sabattis (The C-School Express) concluded: “All in all, it was a phenomenal experience. There were so many toboggans and interesting people there. My highlight definitely had to be the actual racing and the competition. I mean there were over 400 sleds in the competition and we had a legitimate shot at winning the whole thing. At least the other half of us won and we came close ourselves to bringing home the gold for the fastest high school.”