Katie Koczynski spends lots of time sledding downhill at 80 mph, her chin just an inch off the icy run. The General Studies junior is competing in her fourth season with the U.S. Skeleton World Cup Team that she is co-leading with three-time national champion Katie Uhlaender.
Skeleton racing is the oldest competitive sled-racing sport in the world. These high-speed racers use a bobsled track that they descend alone -- and head-first.
"I became interested in skeleton after trying luge as an 8 th grader," Koczynski says. "At first I wanted to try bobsled, but the coaches thought I was too small, so they put me in skeleton."
Her most memorable competition was in Calgary, Alberta, in 2003-2004, when she won 4 th place in the World Cup. "It was great to feel like I was one of the best in the world," Koczynski says.
In both the 2002-2003 and 2003-2004 seasons, Koczynski ranked in the top 10 worldwide. Last year she ranked 12 th. She has competed in Austria, Canada, Germany, Japan and Switzerland.
With the 2006 winter Olympics in February, Koczynski expects this season to be particularly intense. Her sights are set on making the U.S. team that will compete in Torino, Italy. The team is expected to be named in mid-January and will be determined by individual racers' scores through the first five events of the season. Co-captain Uhlaender currently leads the American women with 160 points; Koczynski is second with 66 points.
"It's exciting to be at big competitions," Koczynski says. "Especially the ones in Europe where there are big crowds watching. I think it's neat to go so fast and to be involved with all the different nations and cultures."
Koczynski is as dedicated to her studies as she is to her skeleton training. The sociology major from Nyack, N.Y, maintains a 3.8 GPA and has been on the Dean's List.