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Chasing dreams produces Arkansas’ version of Cool Runnings

By MICHAEL YOUNG Contributing Writer

This article was published October 9, 2011 at 3:20 a.m.

— After years of preparation, Brittany Reinbolt is closing in on her dream of making the U.S. Olympic bobsled team.

The high school basketball and track coach at Augusta is leaving for Lake Placid, N.Y., on Monday. Reinbolt is a brakeman for Team USA on the America’s Cup Tour this season.

Reinbolt will spend most of the next six months at the Olympic Training Center at Lake Placid. She will also travel to Utah, Canada and possibly Europe to compete in races.

“My days will be filled with weight training, sprint training, bobsled push training, actual bobsled sliding, video review, recovery, etc.,” she said.

The 2014 Winter Olympics will be held in Sochi, Russia. And while she’s not yet officially a member of the Olympic team, “It’s a step in the right direction,” Reinbolt said. “You are only a member of the Olympic Team if you actually go to the Olympics. Only the top few athletes on the U.S. team will get to go to the Olympic Games.”

Representing the United States is nothing new for the all-around athlete. Reinbolt was a member of the Women’s National Tackle Football Team that won the World Championships in Stockholm, Sweden, in 2010.

“It was a phenomenal experience to play football for Team USA. It is my goal to play on Team USA again in the summer of 2013,” Reinbolt said.

Reinbolt plays for the Little Rock Wildcats women’s football team and plans to be back in time to play when the season begins next spring.

“She’s a beast as far as athletics go,” said Wildcat teammate Jennifer Dennler of Searcy. “That’s the easiest way I can put it.”

Dennler met Reinbolt during football tryouts in July.

“Brittany is a really amazing person. I seriously don’t think she has ever met a stranger,” Dennler said. “She is the type of person who can walk in a room and make people fall in love with her. She has one of those personalities, and I want my daughter to be like her.”

Reinbolt said her quest to be a member of a bobsled team began in 2002 during her senior year at Searcy High School.

“I have always wanted to try bobsledding. I think it was a mixof watching Cool Runnings and the Olympics,” Reinbolt said. “I really knew it was something I wanted to do when I was a senior in high school. I watched the women’s bobsled at the 2002 Olympic Games on TV, and I was hooked.”

Women’s bobsled became an Olympic event in 2002. For now, only two-women teams compete, but four-women teams are likely in the future.

Cool Runnings is a movie based on a true story about an Olympic bobsled team from Jamaica. Dennler said she teases Reinbolt about being Arkansas’ version of the 1993 movie.

“We keep joking with her about it, but it really is an amazing story,” Dennler said. “Someone from Arkansas on a bobsled team? I think that just goes to show how well-rounded she is athletically. There’s really nowhere to train for it here because there are no ski slopes, ice or a bobsled track in Arkansas.”

Reinbolt’s journey began when she attended a sports combine, which is where athletes go to be scouted. She isn’t sure how much competition there is nationally, but she said it’s been a long road.

The USA B obsled and Skeleton Federation holds several combines nationwide each summer. Anyone can attend a combine, but not everyone qualifies for the team. The top scorers are invited to compete in the National Push Championships. The athletes who do well at push championships are invited back to compete in National Team Trials, which will be Nov. 21. After team trials, the World Cup Team members are named. The World Cup Team consists of three drivers and fivebrakemen, and America’s Cup Team, which consists of three drivers and five brakemen, and the Development Team.

“It’s hard to say exactly how much competition there was to get to the point I am,” Reinbolt said. “It is a long process, and people are gradually weeded out along the way. Right now it looks like I will be competing on the America’s Cup Team this season.”

There are a lot of responsibilities for the brakeman, and the most important is making sure the sled gets a good push.

“It will be my job to get the sled accelerating as fast as possible,” Reinbolt said. “I ran track in college, which has tremendously helped me out with bobsledding.”

To pursue her dream, Reinbolt had to resign from her coaching and teaching duties atAugusta High School. Roy Daniels will fill the void.

“Deciding to resign from my job was one of the hardest things I’ve had to do,” Reinbolt said. “Some of my co-workers have become great friends, I love my girls like they are my own children, and the communities of Augusta and Cotton Plant have really grown on me. It hurts to know that I have really disappointed some of my athletes by leaving, but I really feel like God brought me to Augusta, and now he is taking me away to serve him in a new capacity.”

She added that the reasons to stay in Augusta were also the reasons to leave.

“Ever since my very first day at Augusta High, I have been teaching these girls to dream big, take risks, work hard and to go out and conquer the world,” she said. “What kind of a lesson would I be teaching them if I didn’t do that myself? Will they learn more from hearing me preach every day, or will they learn more by witnessing me take a leap of faith myself?”

To track Reinbolt’s progress, visit her blog at www.H52J.

Three Rivers, Pages 127 on 10/09/2011

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