Extreme Athletes Fly Under the Radar

Posted by Gabe Weintraub

Not every Skidmore athlete plays on a varsity team. This week will see Skidmore's field hockey and women's soccer teams competing in NCAA championship tournaments, the start of the basketball and ice hockey seasons, and the continuation of the swimming and diving season, which has already begun. Those are the events that traditionally drive headlines and encompass "Skidmore athletics." Every day, however, students and faculty train and compete in activities their peers may never hear of. These are just a few examples.

Chris Lord '12

He might not be able to dunk like Michael Jordan, but Chris Lord '12 can still fly like His Airness.

Lord discovered skydiving the summer before his sophomore year and found himself immediately hooked. "It's as close to flying as you can get," he said. "You kind of feel like a superhero."

He completed his first jump, sharing a parachute with an instructor, while on vacation in North Carolina. "In a tandem jump you don't really have to do anything so you don't really have to worry about anything at all," said Lord. "I was nervous but at the same time I felt no pressure to perform at all. I knew that I would do it."

With his fledgling flight behind him, Lord moved on to an Accelerated Freefall program at Jumptown, a skydiving school in Orange, Mass., where he completed another eight jumps. The course began with jumps alongside two instructors who, while not attached to him, guided Lord through his descent. After three jumps with the instructors, he finally got the chance to fly on his own.

"It was pretty nerve wracking once I was actually in charge of myself," Lord said. "It's up to you, you have to pull the shoot. It's doable though, like learning to swim. It's like jumping into an ocean without knowing how to swim."

"I can hardly remember my first jump, it's all a blur," Lord said. "There's so much to take in, and that's why I've done it 12 more times since then. The more I do it, the more I can take in, the more I appreciate what's going on. Now I can swim, or, in this case, fly."

Back at school, Lord has taken it upon himself to teach others to fly as well, organizing trips to Skydive the Ranch in Gardiner. "I've taken 23 people for their first jumps," Lord said. "Everyone who's done it said that they loved it." He has an e-mail list of nearly 200 people and wants to start an official skydiving club at the college, although that has met some resistance. "I've talked to four people, including President Glotzbach, but they said we can't have the club because of insurance issues," he said. "Skidmore won't recognize that we have a skydiving 'club,' but we have a skydiving club."

A football player in high school and a rugby player at the college, Lord views skydiving as a fundamentally different athletic experience. "To me, this is just freedom," Lord said. "It's a sport, but it's not competitive. It's not about being the best, it's just about feeling. I had this one kid who was nearly crying the night before, saying he wasn't going to do it. I said just come, you'll be fine. He came down and the first thing he said to me was 'Chris, it was better than sex!'"

Part of the excitement comes from the anxiety before the jump. "I still get nervous going up," Lord said. "You're supposed to be nervous when you're jumping out of a plane because it's not exactly natural. People weren't necessarily meant to fly, but we do it anyways."

Hugh McAdam, assistant coach for Men's and Women's Crew

Rowing is unique among endurance sports because of the degree of violence it entails; not athlete against athlete but oar against water. A runner hitting the pavement with the force of a rower's stroke would have no knee tissue left in under a week. A sustained string of quick, explosive movements, rowing combines the prolonged elegance of distance running with the instantaneous destructive power of a single down of football.

That duality is what won Hugh McAdam's love for the sport. "It's a very soothing sport. If you're rowing well it's very rhythmic, it's like music," McAdam said. "On the other hand, it's also a way for me to release a lot of psychotic rage… It's very therapeutic to pull really really hard and go crazy for a little while."

McAdam is an assistant coach for Skidmore's men's and women's rowing teams. While he sees coaching as an eventual career move, at the moment it's more of an intermediate step. Coaching at Skidmore lets McAdam train with Head Coach Jim Tucci and further his chances of making the U.S. national team.

McAdam had never even seen a rowing shell before his first year at Washington College in 2004. "The assistant coach brought a boat up to campus and said to me, 'You're tall, skinny and athletic looking, you should try rowing,'" McAdam said. Originally from Nashua, N.H., he played a variety of sports in high school, ranging from football to snowboarding, but none of them ever took hold.

"My sophomore year our men's coach started pushing me to go to summer camps," McAdam said. He lacked the focus as a sophomore, but by the end of his junior year his times had improved enough to go to a camp at Penn A.C., the Pennsylvania Athletic Club Rowing Association.

"That's where I got my first real taste of high caliber rowing," McAdam said. "I was seven seat in a light 8+ and we won club nationals, which is the non-elite national championship. We also went to the Royal Canadian Henley in St. Catherine's, Canada, which is absolutely wild. They get 10 or 12 countries, 1,500 boats. It's an amazing regatta. After that summer, that's when I got really hooked."

After graduating as team captain, and with MVP honors to go along with a third place finish at the Knecht Cup on the Cooper River in Camden, N.J. and a fourth place finish at the Dad Vail Regatta on the Philadelphia's Schuylkill River, McAdam moved on to graduate school at St. Joseph's University. He also started training with the Undine Barge Club, a historic rowing club on Boathouse Row in Philadelphia. While training there he also switched from rowing sweep boats to sculling, placing his focus on the lightweight 2+.

Frustrated at grad school, McAdam met Tucci at the 2009 Masters National Championships in August. "We started chatting and he offered me this job. It was just too good of an opportunity to turn down," McAdam said.

Both believe McAdam can make the national team, but he has a long way to go. "I've only been at the top level of competition for maybe a year," McAdam said. He narrowly missed the top 12 at the 2009 Spring Speed Order, which the national team uses to scout recruits. The setback, however, doe not concern him. "The nature of the sport is it takes a long time," McAdam said. "You've got to lose 1,000 races to win one. I'm just starting that process of losing 1,000 races."

Peter Kabor, shop supervisor for the Theater Department and dance theater

Absence often makes the heart grow fonder, but one need not travel to far to find that separation. Peter Kobor just goes up.

Kobor, 36, works as the shop supervisor for the Theater Department and the dance theater, but spends his weekends atop the peaks of the Adirondack Mountains. On Oct. 18 Kobor summated Mount Marcy, completing his three-year quest to summit all 46 of the Adirondack High Peaks, the mountains in the range taller than 4,000 feet.

He came to hiking late, summating his first mountain after college. "I found a friend who was actually pursuing climbing all 46 peaks, and at the time I thought that was crazy," Kobor said. "I thought that was crazy. I thought that was something I could never accomplish or even try to accomplish."

The birth of his two children put the mountains on the backburner, but after a few years Kobor decided to give the Adirondacks another shot. "It was after four or five High Peaks that I decided I really wanted to do all of them," he said. "In the last six years I've summated 73 High Peaks combined. I've done a lot of them more than once, some in the winter."

The final summit earns Kobor membership to the Adirondack 46ers, an organization that records individuals who summit all 46 High Peaks. By the end of 2008 there were more than 6,000 official 46ers, dating back to the club's founders who finished the task in 1925.

With the High Peaks under his belt, Kobor has started working on Colorado's 54 "fourteeners," peaks exceeding 14,000 feet. Thus far he has summated five. He also hopes to complete the High Peaks again in the winter, a feat that only only 445 individuals have accomplished

"I just think everybody should get outside and hike," Kobor said. "Going to Colorado made me really appreciate my own backyard. You don't need mountains… there's something about being outside and being in touch with that energy in nature that allows everyday life to be much easier."

Above all else, he values the opportunity the mountains afford him to step away from society, even if for just a few hours. "It's just very rewarding for me to not be in touch with the world and then come back to it," he said. "You appreciate everything more. That cup of coffee means more to you, that plate of food is suddenly so important to you… I can't tell you how many times I'm dreaming of a Big Mac on my way out of the woods. It's the worst thing in the world but all you're thinking of is how good that horrible sandwich is going to taste. And it does."


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