Olympic Trials Begin Tonight; NMU Heavily Involved

The U.S. Short Track Speedskating Olympic Trials begin tonight with time trials at the Berry Events Center. The four-day event will determine which athletes will compete at the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver. Several NMU programs and courses are taking advantage of the unique learning opportunities created by this major event. Other students and employees are volunteering their time and talents.

The planning for the opening ceremony, which takes place before Wednesday's races and is presented by the NMU theater department, began last spring. Shelley Russell (CAPS, pictured below at left rehearsing) said, “The goal is to create an environment that showcases some regional flavor and welcomes athletes to the competition.”

Introductory remarks will draw parallels between the strength and determination required of the immigrants who settled the Upper Peninsula and the need for athletes to focus on goals and overcome challenges in order to achieve their dreams. A 16-member chorus will perform a song from each of two musicals Russell wrote about the immigrant experience: Beacon on the Rock and Points North.

“We have students, faculty and community members who have volunteered to do this. They all have professional-quality voices and, together, they create a powerful sound,” said Russell, adding that Paul Truckey (CAPS), April Lindala (Center for Native American Studies) and Robert Engelhart (Music) are among those involved in the 10-minute production.

Psychology major Amanda Boone added, “I’m excited for the opportunity to perform in front of lots of people. The Olympics is a big deal, so it’s cool to be part of the Trials.”

On the technical side, Kim Hegmegee (CAPS, standing right of the ladder) and students constructed a stage to fit the local heritage theme—complete with log siding and green carpet—in the Forest Roberts Theatre shop the weekend before classes started and transported it to the Berry Events Center for setup.

“We also brought in some theater lighting,” said Hegmegee. “It was a challenge in this space because the glass would fog up. We had to let the lights sit in here a full day before we could make any adjustments. Overall, this has ended up like any production, with a stage manager and everything. The one difference is we don’t get to practice as much. For a very large staff used to a lot of rehearsals, that’s creating some nervous energy. But it’s good energy.”

Though perhaps not an exhaustive list, here are more examples of NMU involvement in the U.S. Short Track Speedskating Trials:

▪ Other members of the communication and performance studies department will be working at the event in various capacities. Wally Niebauer’s public relations classes and Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) members will provide logistical assistance and Dwight Brady’s media production students will provide much of the video seen on the jumbo screen at the Berry Events Center. Public relations students have been involved all summer in the promoting the event and coordinating the entertainment.


▪The Northern Michigan Constructors student organization cut 80 wooden skate patterns that were decorated and now hang from downtown light poles. The colorful skates have become a traditional welcome for athletes, coaches and fans attending Olympic Trials and World Cup events. NMU clubs and sports teams joined local businesses and individuals in lending unique designs to the skate cutouts.


▪As covered previously in CAMPUS, the physics department assisted the U.S. Olympic Education Center and Jacquart Fabric Products of Ironwood in testing a new set of pads to line the rink and absorb the impact of skaters who might slide out of control. The padding must meet rigorous performance standards set by the International Skating Union before it can be installed. Military science also assisted in the testing.  

Glenna Pendleton’s (Business) marketing students will help with merchandising and conduct a survey of buyers’ preferences in color, size and type of apparel items.


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Updated: September 8, 2009

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