Vienna native enjoying life on U.S. skeleton team

Veronica Day, a Vienna native who has relatives in the Front Royal area, adjusts her helmet. Day is a member of the U.S. Bobsled and Skeleton team. She is hoping to make the 2018 Winter Olympics team. Courtesy photo by Molly Choma

Veronica Day was joking around with one of her roommates at Elon University as they watched the 2010 Winter Olympics that they should try out for the bobsled team. Now almost six years later, Day is an Olympic hopeful for the skeleton team.

Day was a standout in track and field at both James Madison High School in Vienna, and at Elon University. She and her roommate heard that many of the Olympic bobsleders were track athletes.

“After doing some research I realized I’m not quite the right fit for bobsled, but I could try skeleton,” Day said in a phone interview last week from Whistler, British Columbia. “I figured I’d graduate from college and go up and try it and see if I like it.”

Day, whose uncle Randy Day lives in Front Royal, graduated from Elon in 2011 and in the summer began the process of becoming a skeleton athlete.

She said she had to pass a fitness test, which was kind of like the NFL combine. Then she had to do push championships, which is to see how well she could push a sled.

Veronica Day slides on a skeleton sled. Courtesy photo by Molly Choma

Then she was invited back to go to sledding school, where she learned the basics of how to slide.

She said by November 2011 she was sledding headfirst. Day said that she was very nervous the first time she tried it, but she quickly came to love it.

“Halfway through the run your head’s really high, and you’re trying to look for everything and just kind of soaking it all in,” Day said. “And before the run was even over I wanted to take another run.”

Over four years later, Day is a member of the U.S. Bobsled and Skeleton team and is ranked sixth on the skeleton team.

She said she usually goes from track to track, a few weeks at a time, to get some runs in and practice and train. Day is training at the track in Whistler, British Columbia, the same track used for the 2010 Winter Olympics.

Veronica Day looks ahead while on a skeleton sled. Courtesy photo by Molly Choma

Day said that the U.S. team races one another and then from those results are placed on different circuits. She said she is in the North American Cup, and is only training on the North American tracks.

At Elon, Day was a standout jumper on the track and field team. She said skeleton is very different from track, and the competition is different from anything she’s experienced.

“It’s a higher level of competition training with the U.S. team just because everyone basically has the same goal — that’s qualifying for the Olympics,” Day said. “People wouldn’t be doing it if that wasn’t their end goal. So it just kind of raises the intensity level and the competition level amongst the team.”

She said one of the biggest things she had to learn was to stay calm, stay relaxed and to not think too much when you’re on a run.

“In skeleton you’re exerting 100 percent of energy for this push start that’s at the beginning. It lasts about six seconds and as you get on your slide you have to calm down, regroup and kind of go into this state of Zen before you enter the first corner,” Day said. “If you’re still really amped up going into the first corner then it can cause issues going down the track. You can get really skiddy, you can steer too hard. Once you get on your sled you have to be very mellow.”

Day said that on a normal day she spends about five hours a day training in the summer and about six a day in the winter. She said she only gets in two runs a day, and the rest of the time is devoted to doing workouts to stay in shape and preparing equipment.

She said every track is different so the more time spent at a track the better and faster you get.

“The track I’m at now, Whistler, it’s the fastest track in the world. The men can hit over 90 miles an hour,” Day said. “I’ve hit 86 miles an hour here. Just kind of knowing how fast you’re going down the track is daunting. Ultimately, I just basically remind myself that I know what I need to do, and it’s just a matter of executing.”

Day said she’s learned a lot in the four years she’s been doing it, and it’s helped competing against the other members of the U.S. team.

She said that she watched the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Russia, and knowing that she knew the U.S. team members motivated and inspired her.

“I knew the people that were sliding and competing, and just realized that they’re people just like I am,” Day said. “So why can’t I qualify in four years?”

Day said that in fall 2017 the national team tryouts will be held. The top two will perform in the World Cup circuit. Assuming those two do well in the circuit, they will likely be the two chosen to represent the U.S. in the 2018 Winter Olympics.

“All of the women are very, very closely ranked to one another,” Day said. “It’s really kind of who can show up on race day, and who can perform on race day. I personally think that will kind of be the determining factor for qualifying for the 2018 Olympics.”

Most of the U.S. team isn’t paid to be on the team and training for the Olympics. Day said that she often does different fundraisers to help her with money for training.

Anyone interested in donating and helping Day out can do so at the following website: http://tinyurl.com/h5c36z8.

Day, whose grandfather was an alternate on the 1948 fencing Olympic team, said she’s trying not to think too far ahead about the Olympics. However, she said she’s happy with where she’s at right now in a sport that she’s only done for four years.

No matter what happens down the road, Day said she is very happy to be going through this experience.

“If you told me 10 years ago that I was going to be sliding face first on a glorified lunch tray at 90 miles an hour I would think you were crazy,” Day said. “Now that I’m here and I’m doing it, it’s a once in a lifetime experience. It’s a lot of fun. The people are great that I get to train with and slide with every day. It’s pretty exciting to get to travel and go to all these cool places as well.”

Contact staff writer Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 168, or tkeeler@nvdaily.com