Throughout the year, the Southern Conference is featuring former student-athletes from around the league in a series called Where Are They Now. This will be an opportunity to get reacquainted with the student-athletes after their competition days have come to an end. The question and answer session focuses on a former student-athlete who has gone on to excel away from the field, course, mat or court.
Our next Where Are They Now feature focuses on former Elon women’s track and field athlete, Veronica Day, who was named the 2011 Most Valuable Outdoor Field Performer. Day was also named the Field Athlete of the Week three times during her senior season (2011). The Vienna, Va. native won the 2011 women’s triple jump crown with a jump of 12.64-meters, and placed second in the long jump with a jump of 5.91-meters.
After her graduation in May, Day traded her track shoes for ice spikes and began training with the U.S. elite development team for skeleton in Lake Placid, N.Y. Lake Placid hosted the 1932 and 1980 Winter Olympics, but is most notably known for the 1980 Winter Olympic “Miracle on Ice” where the USA defeated the Soviet Union and ultimately won the gold medal.
Day has been keeping a blog about her time in Lake Placid. She posts videos of her sliding along with pictures. To read more about her daily life with the development team, visit her blog, at https://frostbittenfollies.wordpress.com/
Elon Track & Field (2007-2011)—International Business
Current Profession: training with the elite development team for skeleton in Lake Placid, N.Y.
How did you end up at Elon?
Kind of by default I guess. I applied to Virginia Tech and William & Mary, and Elon, and a few other schools. I got wait listed at William & Mary and Virginia Tech said I’d have to be a walk-on on the track team. Coach Elliston at Elon said, ‘yes come, we really want you here’ and gave me scholarship money. The school wasn’t what I was looking for, it was a smaller private school and I wanted a big state school atmosphere. But the fact that he (coach Elliston) was so open with what he wanted from me, it made me want to go there. Once I got there, I thought it was great and it was exactly what I was looking for; the small class size, the atmosphere of the school, and the track program. Before I got there was coach Elliston’s first year there and when he was recruiting me and all the other people in my class, he made it very clear that he wanted to make the program a serious conference threat with good athletes, that were going to develop into even better athletes. And that kind of excited me, the fact that I would be part of a growing program that would make some serious changes in the years to follow.
What was it like balancing academics and athletics at Elon?
I think it goes for any NCAA athlete that it is hard balancing athletics and academics, and doing well in both. Time management is something you’ve got to learn from the get-go. Up here with no academics, it’s like all I have to do is athletics and you’d think it would be easier because there’s so much time in the day, but because there is so much time in the day it’s really easy to procrastinate and put things off. So I tried to set up a schedule for myself where I get up every morning, I go eat breakfast, I start working out, that way I’m not leaving things to the last minute and shorting myself on the workouts. Even though there is no academic aspect, it’s really easy to put things off.
Do you feel like when you were at Elon you were trained well to be on a schedule?
Definitely. It is like a training process. My freshman year I had all 8 a.m.’s which was terrible so sophomore year I decided I wasn’t going to take any 8 a.m.’s and I ended up getting really late classes and I didn’t get up, and I decided that wasn’t going to fly. I needed to be up in the morning and start my day so that I could actually get stuff. You go to bed at a reasonable hour; you wake up at a reasonable hour. You do your homework when you’re supposed to and not at two in the morning just so you’re on a healthy schedule for yourself.
What was your most memorable moment at Elon?
Senior year in triple jump my teammate Lauren Hawkesworth and I went one-two in the triple jump at the outdoor conference meet, which was awesome. I had a huge PR that meet by like a foot and a half, which qualified me for the NCAA Regional meet. I’d say that is my biggest memory. It was cool to stand on the podium with your teammate.
You had a great career at Elon with impact at the conference meets and coach Elliston was voted Coach of the Year twice (2010 and 2011). What was it like being a part of that?
It was great. I love coach Elliston. That was really exciting. App State has some really good athletes. They won the women’s conference last year; they also have many more athletes than we do so they have this larger pool to pick from. We had to make every person on the team count, so if you’re going to the meet you are expected to score because we need you to score with only so many people on our team. The fact that coach Elliston turned so many athletes into athletes that could score at the conference meet is a big deal. I feel like that’s why he got the coaches award. It was really nice to have that Field Athlete of the Year plaque and he had his Coach of the Year plaque. There’s a picture of us holding our plaques, it was good way to end. It was one of the best moments.
How did you get involved in skeleton?
My roommate Justine Robinson, she was a thrower, and I at the last Olympics were watching the bobsled and after every American went they (the announcers) would be like this girl was a school record holder in the 100-meter hurdles. So we were like, ‘we run track, we can do bobsled no big deal.’ So I looked it up online to see what the qualifications were to be a bobsled athlete, and I was too small for bobsled. The minimum height is 5-foot-6 and the minimum weight is 150. I am 5-foot-6, but I am not close to the minimum weight. I fit right in the middle of the range of the requirements for the skeleton. It was just a joke Justine and I had for about two months and when I looked it up online I was like, ‘I’m totally doing this. This is awesome.’
So you send in your athletic resume to them and they give you the go-ahead, and then you’re invited up for a combine. I tested well at the combine, so I got invited back.
What was the transition like for you, trading in your track spikes for ice spikes?
I actually used track spikes for about the first two months. The transition in the summer time wasn’t that bad because I was still doing track workouts. I had written down all the workouts I had done during the season at Elon and just rotated through them. So it was really like I was going into another track season.
Once you get up here and it gets too cold or there’s too much snow on the ground to run you kind of have to modify your workouts so you can get the physical fitness in that you need to. The transition hasn’t really been that difficult. They do a really good job here integrating workouts so that you do make the most of it despite the lack of a running track, and the sprints that I’m doing are significantly shorter than the ones I did in college. The longest I probably have to run here is 40-meters and in college I ran the 4x100-meter relay. It’s mostly working on being stronger as opposed to faster, which is hard because of the lifting aspect. You spend a lot of time in the gym. I think it’s been good and I’ve made a good transition so far.
What has been the toughest thing you’ve faced in Lake Placid so far?
The biggest challenge I think is when you go on a break, Thanksgiving or Christmas, the first day that you come back you’re like ‘why am I doing this? Why am I going head first down this track at 70mph. What was I thinking?’ The first day back from a break I’m always like, ‘I hate this, I hate this. Why am I here?’ After I do that first run, I’m like, ‘I love this. This is amazing.’ I would say that initial gut reaction of ‘oh my god’ is definitely the worst part, but I need to remind myself that the adrenaline rush you get from it is well worth it.
What has been the scariest moment with the skeleton team?
I’ve fallen off my sled twice now. The second time I fell off my sled, I went into the biggest turn on the track. It’s not really that hard of a turn, you don’t need to steer in it, you’re supposed to but you don’t have to until the very end. So I went into it on a skid and exited way too early and crashed on the inside of the turn. My sled hit the inside of the turn and then the outside of the turn. As it was happening, I was like, ‘this is not going to end well, just get me out of this turn.’ My sled hit the right wall and then it twisted and hit the left wall and I just let go of my sled and let the sled go, and was like ‘oh I made it, I’m alive.’ I had this humongous bruise on my leg for three or four weeks that was this atrocious purple shade, so I’d have to say that was the scariest moment.
What is a typical day like for you now?
I get up around nine and go eat breakfast. I wait about 30 minutes or so to let the food digest. Then I do a workout in the gym that’s usually a sprinting kind of workout like plyometric like jumping, sprinting, those kinds of things, and then I usually go eat lunch because that takes a while. After lunch I go and lift and lifting takes about another hour and a half or so and then I get ready to go slide. You may only get three or four runs in an evening. It takes a really long time because only one person can be on a track at a time. The track’s probably about six or seven miles away so you have to drive there and they need to give you time to set your rock in your sled. That’s the amount of bow that’s in the sled. The more bow there is the less control you have, but you’re cutting less ice so you’ll go faster. So sliding, the whole process of leaving and going, takes about four hours. When we get back from the track, we eat dinner and usually watch film of what we did and that could take anywhere from 45 minutes to two hours. It kind of depends on the day and if there was good ice or not. Then I go to bed; that’s my day.
How many people are at Lake Placid in the skeleton?
In the entire women’s program there are probably 20 to 25 girls total, probably closer to 20. There are five girls in the development program with me that just started this year, my class I guess. A lot of the people that are on the top circuits, like the world cup circuit and the ICC circuit, they aren’t here right now, but they’ll be back soon.
What are your long term goals for yourself?
Obviously the long term goal is to qualify for the Olympics. I wouldn’t be doing this sport recreationally. I want to be competitive at it at the world level. Like I said, that’s a long term goal. You have to work your way up. I think there are a lot of people thinking, ‘oh I’m going to go to the Olympics next year,’ but if you watch the world cup sliders go, they are fantastic and the reason why they are so good is because they have years of experience and they know all the tracks because they’ve slid on all the tracks. I’ve just slid on one track. Even though I’m starting to get the groove of this track, if you throw me on another track it’s like I have to learn all these new steers for a new track. Qualifying for the Olympics is the long term goal, but next year I would like to be on the circuit and not have to stay in Lake Placid and train for another year again without races. So I’d like to be able to travel and race next year and make it on to the U.S. Cup Circuit.
Are you enjoying your time in Lake Placid?
I do like Lake Placid it is a little small for my taste. At least Elon had a mall 30 minutes away. Cute is the word I would use to describe Lake Placid. You can walk around town and there’s so many posters and billboards up of past Olympics they’ve had here and it kind of gets you in the Olympic spirit I guess; the ‘I’m going to work hard so I can get to the Olympics’ attitude. I don’t think I would live here unless it was summertime here year round, which it’s not. I think like you said the quaint aspect is appealing when you first get here, but after you’ve been here for a while and the weather kind of keeps you inside and there’s nowhere to go shopping, it makes me a little bit homesick for civilization I guess. I mean we are an hour from Canada; that’s how far north we are. I didn’t realize that until I went to Montreal. I don’t think they would put a track for sliding on in a big city so it kind of keeps you focused because there’s nothing to do but workout.
What are your plans after you make the Olympics?
I’m trying to look for a job right now for in between the seasons. Even though it will have been a whole year, I still feel like a new grad because I don’t really have a lot of work experience under my belt. In the off season I want to get a job and be able to support myself up here so that when I am done with this I will have a working resume that won’t have a 10-year gap from when I graduated college to when I start looking for a job. I’d like to do something in graphic design or marketing. I majored in international business at Elon and I’ll probably end up going into the business world. My past two internships have included some kind of graphic design, web page design or something like that. I really do like doing that it’s just a matter of training myself, getting better at it and do that full-time instead of customer service in that.
Until you’re on the world cup team or the ICC team you sponsor yourself, so it’s like a business because I have to be able to market myself to businesses in order to get sponsors. You only get paid if you’re on the first tier, and then the second tier gets their flights paid for. The third and fourth tiers fund themselves entirely. If you’re not willing to commit the time, or even the money, you won’t get very far.
Do you have any advice to give current student-athletes?
Time management is key if you want to be a successful athlete at the conference level, and the NCAA level. You have to learn to manage your time properly. Otherwise your body is just going to end up tired. If you stay up late, you’re just going to be tired and you won’t be able to put in 100 percent at practice, it’s all about how you manage your time.