Jake Bergstrom, a part-time Upton dispatcher, got into Skeleton head first.
What is Skeleton? It’s that crazy sport which a person rides a small sled down a frozen track while lying face down, head first. The rider experiences forces up to 5 g and reaches speeds above 80 mph.
Jake, a 2008 graduate of Nipmuc Regional High School, first discovered sliding in high school. “One of my good friends Angie Martel was involved with it and was a very good slider. She stopped just before college. So I knew about the sport, a little,” said Jake.
At the University of Maine in Orono Jake ran track and field giving him the skills needed for the sport. “After I graduated, a college a teammate of mine from Maine told me he was going to go to a combine for Bobsled and Skeleton. He asked if I wanted to go.”
Jake attended the combine where he was tested in three events; a sprint of 45 meters, a standing broad jump, and a shot put toss. “They use the tests as a baseline to find out if you have the speed and athletic ability they are looking for, to see if you are worth training,” Jake said. He did and he was invited to attend Skeleton school.
When asked why he was selected for Skeleton over Bobsled he said, “My size is a better fit, I’m about 5′ 10, 170 pounds, where Bobsledders are usually at least 220 plus.”
“At school, they got us onto a sled and onto the track. We started about half way up and by the end of the week we got our first runs off of the top.”
His first run, “It was absolutely nerve-racking,” he said. “But that was all anticipation. Once I got on and settled onto the sled it was one of the coolest feelings I’ve ever experienced.”
After Skeleton school, Jake was invited up to train at Lake Placid by the coach of the development program. Jake said, “He wanted me to get as many runs in as I could to figure out if I liked sliding. I went up in January and stayed until March.”
“My first real race was Eastern Regionals, where most of the new sliders compete,” he said. He placed sixth overall out of fourteen sliders. “That race secured me an invite to Nationals, a race where most of the U.S. team comes back to finish their season.”
Jake finished off his season at Nationals where he finished eleventh out of fourteen, “I raced against the best from the U.S. and I was very happy with the result,” he said.
This year Jake was invited back to the U.S. team trials based on his record and his coaches recommendations. The trials took place at two locations, Lake Placid, NY and Park City, Utah.
“Fifteen men were invited to the trials which took place between October 10th through November 7th. Myself and two other sliders were at a slight disadvantage because we hadn’t slid at Utah before, and we only had three days of training there before the races. I placed thirteenth overall and the top 11 went to the team. So I did not make the Circuit this year,” Jake said.
There are 4 circuits the team is divided amongst; World Cup which is the top-level, then ICC (Intercontinental Cup) EC (Europa Cup) and NAC (North Americas Cup). Only two men are selected for the Olympic Team during the Olympic year, which will be in 2018.
This March Jake will have one more shot to make the Circuit. “The NAC team finishes their season in Lake Placid then and if I slide well enough in training I might get placed into that race,” he said.
Jake will continue to train with hopes of making the Circut. “This year I have already been to Calgary Canada to train up there and will be spending the rest of the season in Lake Placid and Park city. When I’m not sliding I have a pretty regimented workout system. It’s a lot of weight training and short sprints. The idea is to be as strong and fast as possible,” he said. “My off season training is entirely lifting and sprinting. I work out at a great gym called Exceed Sports and Fitness in Northborough.”
“The Upton Police Department has been extremely supportive of my Skeleton training and competing,” Jake said. “I would like to thank them for all of their support.”