Saturday, December 28, 2013

Former UHigh Guy Pat Meek qualifies for Sochi in speedskating



Here's something for the guys at St. Louis University High to crow about: One of their own is an Olympian.
Patrick Meek, class of 2004, qualified for the U.S. speedskating team that will travel to Sochi by finishing third in the 5,000 meters on Friday in Salt Lake City.

Though he's a native of Chicago and a bit of a Blackhawks fan, Meek has looked back fondly on his time at the UHigh, when he was a member of the cross country team. Following graduation, he moved to Salt Lake City, where he has spent almost a decade devoting himself to his dream. Pat's the national champion at 25K and 50K. Sadly for him, those are not Olympic distances.

The road has been tough. Long track speedskating -- the old-school style on a huge oval with ice specially frozen to maximize the effort from long, graceful strides -- isn't a glamour sport. It's sort of like distance running in that respect. Pat has worked hard to wrangle sponsors and fund his dream. Here's an excerpt from an interview with Team USA.org:

"For Torino, I was so young. I set a PR in the 10K at trials. I thought: Oh, this is awesome, great race, done, sweet. I wasn’t so emotionally invested. I really thought Vancouver was my opportunity to make the team. [At the trials for Vancouver,] I went faster than I’d ever gone before. I just wasn’t fast enough that day. You want to be happy — and people are telling you to be happy — but you set this very binary goal for yourself: either you make the team or you don’t. At that moment, I couldn't get past the fact that I didn’t make the Olympic team. Sitting on the couch watching the Opening Ceremony, really hoping you were going to be there with those same people, was not a fun experience. It was tough watching the event you’d committed your life to."

His commitment yielded sweet fruit Friday, when he finished third in a time of 6 minutes, 27.9 seconds, trailing winner Jonathan Kuck and 17-year-old Emery Lehman. In true Jr. Bill-Latin student fashion, his mantra in qualifying: Audentis fortuna juvat: Fortune favors the bold.

Magistra should be smiling.

Meek raced in a heat with Kuck, the nation's best shot at a medal in the distance events. The superior competition helped Meek set a pace that almost ensured that he would qualify. He stretches to 12 the streak of Olympics in which a St. Louis skater has competed.

Meek is the first of many locals who could qualify for Sochi, which could make this Olympiad  the biggest ever for St. Louis athletes. Joining Meek could be goalie Ben Bishop and a slew of Blues: David Backes, T.J. Oshie, Kevin Shattenkirk, Jay Bouewmeester, Alex Pietroangelo, Jaroslav Halak, Roman Polack, Vladi Sobotka, Vladi Tarasenko, Alexander Steen.

Can't wait.

As your St. Louis hockey brethren would say, Way to go, Meeker.