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Michener finds his groove

The Barlow High graduate lands a spot on the US national bobsled team

Photo Credit: CONTRIBUTED PHOTO - Mick Cunningham and Sam Michener, right, are members of Team USAs second sled heading into the winter sports season next month. The two were college track rivals briefly in the sprints at Boise State and Idaho. Sam Michener took another step toward his Olympic dream last week by landing a spot on one of Team USA’s elite sleds for the upcoming winter racing season.

Michener, a Barlow High graduate, earned the brakeman spot on the national bobsled team’s No. 2 squad, meaning he will be part of the regular rotation when the team heads off for its European circuit next month.

The national team fills seven sleds, but it’s only the top two sleds that compete on a full-time basis on the world tour. Michener was the brakeman for the No. 3 sled last season, meaning he saw limited action at events.

“Being on one of the premier teams is huge,” Michener said. “God-willing I’ll stay healthy, keep improving and be in good position for the 2018 Games.”

Moving up the ranks to one of the full-time sleds was no easy task, especially considering he was battling the flu during the first week of tryouts in New York.

“It’s like going through the NFL combine with all these different tests,” Michener said. “I competed the best I could, but I was just in the middle of the pack. Fortunately, I had performed well in my previous seasons, so the committee knew I was better than what I was putting on paper.”

He got the chance to prove just that when the team travelled to Park City, Utah, last week for the second stage of tryouts. Michener competed with sled two under pilot Nick Cunningham, helping the team to wins in two of the three runs during the team trials in Park City.

“The selection process is always stressful,” Michener said. “You’re scrutinized every time you pick up a weight and every time on the ice is measured. It’s a relief knowing I have one of those top spots, and now it’s time to move forward and take on the rest of the world.”

Michener (Idaho) and Cunningham (Boise State) raced against in each other briefly as track sprinters on rival squads in college.

“It’s similar to that whole Beaver vs. Duck dynamic,” Michener said. “We used to compete against each other, now we’re working together.”

Team USA has events next month in Lake Placid and in Calgary before travelling overseas for a nine-week stay on the European circuit.

“We have a young team, but we have very high expectations,” Michener said. “We should be on the podium at every event. It’s exciting to go to Europe where they get huge crowds and people are asking for your autograph.”

The Russian sled won gold at the 2014 Olympics, while Team USA earned the bronze, coming in ahead of traditional powers Germany and Switzerland in the popular four-man event. Team USA’s second sled finished 12th out of 30 teams at last winter’s Olympics.

“The competition is fierce and we’re the underdog over there running on their tracks,” Michener said. “There are a lot of turns and a lot of speed. One tiny mistake and you’re going to go over.”

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