Willmott To Train Olympians

NEW PALTZ — Brett Willmott, who recently completed his first year as Head Coach of the SUNY New Paltz cross-country and track and field teams, has been selected to help prepare the United States Skeleton team for the 2002 Olympic Winter Games in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Willmott, a certified strength and conditioning specialist, will be the team’s strength, conditioning and push coach.

An Oakfield, NY native and a 1995 SUNY Plattsburgh graduate, Willmott has already worked for several years with one of the sport’s premier competitors, Juleigh Walker, and looks to implement many of the same training methods with the other team members.

“Julie’s push times have improved on tracks around the world and she prompted me to apply,” Willmott said. “I want to thank New Paltz for giving me the support to do this, and my assistant for helping the transition from here to there,” Willmott said.

Assistant Coach Mike Schmidt, a Queensbury, NY native and a 1999 SUNY Plattsburgh graduate, will serve as interim head coach for the next 20 months while Willmott, who has been granted a leave of absence by the university, is away.

This past fall, freshman Phil Goodwin finished eighth at the SUNYAC Cross-Country Championships to become the first New Paltz cross-country athlete to earn All-SUNYAC status. Then this spring, three athletes – Andrea Drayss (shot put), Cassandra Quackenbush (javelin) and Matt Selkirk (pole vault) – won SUNYAC Outdoor Track and Field championships.

Quackenbush went on to win the 2000 ECAC Heptathlon title as well. It was the first men’s track and field season at New Paltz since the late 1970s, and the first time women’s track and field has been offered.

“Obviously we’re delighted and impressed with Brett’s selection to the Olympic team coaching position,” New Paltz Athletic Director Jim Zalacca said. “Our teams have benefited from his abilities and have enjoyed extraordinary success in our first year of competition. We look forward to continued success under Mike Schmidt’s direction.”

Schmidt is doubly excited.

“I’m ecstatic for Brett. He’s doing something really super,” he said. “I’m also very happy to be sitting here in this position. I couldn’t have foreseen this so early in my career. It gives me great experience.”

Schmidt continued, “The transition will be almost seamless, hopefully. Brett and I split things up pretty well – everything from paperwork to coaching. That really prepared me. Now (though) I’m going to have to do everything.”

“Basically I hope to continue Brett’s vision, which is also my own vision, and continue the success,” Schmidt said.

Skeleton is often compared to the sport of luge, with the two most notable differences between the two sports being sledding down the icy course face-first instead of feet-first, and lying on your stomach instead of your back. It will be an Olympic sport for the first time in 2002.