Team WOW, made up of LA students Alexandr Bedarev from Kazakhstan, Peter Nguyen from Vietnam, and William Doan from Vietnam after their successful run at the 2019 U.S. National Toboggan Championship.

On Saturday, February 9, six teams consisting of residential students from Lincoln Academy competed in the 2019 U.S. National Toboggan Championship at the Camden Snowbowl. There were 425 teams racing in traditional wooden toboggans down the 440-foot-long chute. Despite frigid temperatures and gusty winds spirits were high among the LA Participants, who hoped to place in the top 25.

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Toboggan competitors walk up the hill at the Camden Snow Bowl to compete in the U.S. National Toboggan Championships.

The students competed in teams of two and three and some joined in the festive nature of the event by wearing costumes. Each team walked up to the top of the chute, and when their turn came they sat in position on the toboggan, pushed to the start gate, and then were dropped into the chute. The students sped down the chute at approximately 35 miles per hour out onto and across Hosmer Pond. Due to the glassy-nature of the pond this year teams went further than they have in past competitions. Once the toboggan stopped teams made the blustery walk back to the line to take another run. Each team had the opportunity to make two runs.

This was a new experience for LA’s residential students, many of whom hail from countries without winter, much less winter sports. “Students were not entirely sure what to expect,” said Aubrie Howard, a Kieve-Wavus Educator in Residence who is spending the winter months helping out classes and clubs at Lincoln Academy, “but they had a fun time and are already scheming how they can make into the top 25 at next year’s 2020 U.S. National Toboggan Championships.”

The three-person teams from Lincoln Academy were: Chas Van Damme (from the US and Bolivia) Jorge Pulido-Fernandez and Edu Martin-Chico (both from Spain) on team “Los Pollos Hermanos”; Alexandr Bedarev from Kazakhstan, Peter Nguyen from Vietnam, and William Doan from Vietnam on team “WOW”; Shihua Chen, Fiona Liang, and Selena Lin, all from China, on team “We Need Healing.” The two person teams were: Lorenzo Parages de Silva from Spain and Bao Chi Dang from Vietnam on team “Two Guys”; Troy Nguyen from Vietnam and Filip Diakonowicz from Poland on team “Keep the Slide Alive” and Arnauld Hirwa from Rwanda joined Nelson Bandy, a local Kieve-Wavus Educator-in-Residence at Nobleboro Central School, on team “Ross Richardson.”

The team “We Need Healing

The team “We Need Healing” made up of LA students Shihua Chen, Fiona Liang, and Selena Lin from China cross the finish line at the 2019 U.S. National Toboggan Championship at the Camden Snowbowl.

“It was the first time for me to play this kind of snow game,” said Selina Lin, a ninth grader from China. “It was a unique experience for me. I wore my thickest clothes but I still felt my hands and face were frozen, I could not feel them at that time…, but finally when we were lying on the toboggan every feeling of irritability and cold disappeared. I like tobogganing!”

Arnauld Hirwa is a LA junior from Rwanda who experienced winter for the first time when he arrived at LA last year as a sophomore. “Coming from a country were we only receive two weather seasons, which are rainy and dry season, experiencing winter is a remarkable experience…. There was some doubt in me really asking myself if I should really do this, if it’s really worth it, because as we were waiting in line for our turn to go down the chute you could see people going down at high speeds and going over frozen water. It was the first time I ever saw people go over frozen ice, and I was afraid it would break on us….Even though I was scared at first, the feeling of doing it was marvelous and worth doing.”

“This event was so much fun because the people were friendly. The funniest thing to me was how the people all the way from those warm states like California and Texas came all the way to the cold just for this amazing event. The high crowds and diversity of people there really showed you how valuable and remarkable this event is!”

Chas Van Damme, a senior domestic boarding student who grew up in many countries around the world, said “as we made our way down the chute, our screams were echoed by a diverse crowd riddled with costumes ranging from space suits to ice creams. 10.21 seconds later, we passed the finish line with a respectable but definitely not record-breaking score. It was amazing to see how happy people were in the face of the freezing cold weather and just how contagious people’s’ smiles could be. It’s genuinely tough to keep a straight face when you’ve got grown men dressed as grapes speeding down a hill. All in all, the U.S. National Toboggan Championship was an honor to be a part of and I hope to be back next year!”