S. Burlington Thursday, May 7th
PAUL SMITH'S, N.Y. - It's a small college with big plans. Paul Smith's College is looking to become a top training ground for athletes in Winter Olympic sports, and to train those athletes for success away from sports as well.
"We want to be known, also, for this sports and education initiative.", says Paul Smith's Sports Initiatives Director John Morgan.
Located in the heart of the Adirondacks and just thirty minutes from Lake Placid, Paul Smith's College had the potential of an uncut gem, and now that gem is starting to shine.
It started with an investment from a passionate donor that resulted in the construction of an elite level Nordic skiing course, carved out of the College's 14,000 acre campus that made it's debut in January with the Bobcat Invitational.
"There's an initial buy-in that's beyond what 20 years of normal running would do for us.", says Paul Smith's Head Nordic Ski Coach Matt Dougherty. "We can create a community now on our campus at this center through races and learn to ski programs."
A biathlon range will also be added to those facilities in the coming months. This winter, the College entered partnerships with both US Biathlon, and USA Nordic, which governs ski jumping and Nordic combined, to become their official eastern training hubs.
Those organizations have begun to offer scholarships to send rising young athletes to Paul Smith's. The opportunity to attend college while still being able to train and compete in your chosen sport has been a missing link in the development chain for many winter sports.
"So right now all the biathletes and ski jumpers, if they choose to ski in college, they are putting down their ski jumping skis and their rifles for four years.", says Dougherty. "They don't have that four years to develop and that's going to allow this for all those sports."
"These elite athletes are going to get an education at a young age and have a chance to experience a college atmosphere.", adds Morgan.
Last week, Paul Smith's announced the formation of an Olympic Advisory Council to provide input and guidance as the college's sport and education initiative grows. That group, Tim Burke, Bill Demong, Chris Mazdzer, Andrea Kilbourne-Hill and Andrew Weibrecht, represents sports from Nordic combined to alpine skiing.
All five members of the Council grew up in the region and each as experience in the challenges of mixing top level training with achieving a college education. The team at Paul Smith's feels tapping into that experience will be key in helping the College craft it's program for next generation of winter athletes.
"We believe that this is going to be a great training ground for the next level.", says Morgan. "But when these kids are done with they're 29 or 30 years old, they're going to have an education behind them."