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News from the Skeleton Crew

March 3, 2005 – The V.I. Skeleton team captain, Troy Billington, wrapped up his season with a third place finish at an event in Sapporo, Japan. Steve Morgenthaler, team liaison, said in his good-news email that Billington did not name the event.
In case you're not up to snuff on winter sports events, skeleton involves going face-forward down an ice track, solo, on your stomach, aboard an 80-pound sled not much larger than a cafeteria tray strapped to long steel runners. With your face just inches from the ice, you'll hits speeds of 70 to 80 mph.
Billington, who makes St. John his home base, leads the St. John team with participation at numerous world-class events, but others on the team are gaining ground, Morgenthaler said Thursday.
"The goal is to enhance their education," Morgenthaler said.
Alexa Putnam and Chutney Mohler, both 16 and students at St. John School on Gifft Hill, competed in Germany at European Cup events held in Altenberg and Konigssee.
Mohler finished 22 out of 24 and Putnam 24 out of 24 at the Altenberg event. Mohler was 22 our of 24 and Putnam 23 out of 24 at the Konigssee event. Both were held in December 2004.
In January, Putnam participated in the World Junior Championships at Winterberg, Germany. She finished in last place in a field of 22, but gained lots of experience.
"And I loved the cold weather," she said.
She said she thought being in Europe was "awesome."
Putnam said that everyone was very helpful to the novice competitors from the Virgin Islands. She said that she didn't have the right runners for her sled and the correct sanding equipment, but the other competitors helped her out.
Mohler had equally enthusiastic words.
"I'm hoping to make it to the Olympics, but if not, the journey was twice the fun," she said.
Both she and Putnam spoke of the adrenalin rush that comes from competing in the sport.
Additionally, former St. John School on Gifft Hill student Gregg Miller, who is now at New York University, competed at the America's Cup at Lake Placid, New York in January. He finished 24 out of 36.
And St. John construction worker Gerson Gurerro competed at the Konigssee event. He finished last in a field of 54.
However, he said the event was the first time the Dominican Republic-born Guerro ever saw snow.
Billington finished 49th at the Konigssee event.
Morgenthaler said that in order for the competitors to represent the Virgin Islands at the 2006 Winter Olympics in Torino, Italy, they have to qualify at a Challenge Cup in January 2006.
While the Olympics would be nice, Morgenthaler sees a bigger picture. He said that Mohler and Putnam are learning skills like planning and fundraising.
"The girls have really matured," he said.
In a 2001 interview with this reporter, Billington said he was born in Chicago of Ecuadorian parents. He also lived with his family in Aruba, where his father was a chef, before graduating from the University of South Florida. Always a competitive athlete, he signed on as a grinder with Peter Holmberg during the America's Cup Challenge, an unsuccessful Virgin-Islands-based effort to put a boat in the America's Cup.
"I learned courage from working on the America's Cup," Billington said in 2001 interview.
While on board with Holmberg, he was tapped to work on the V.I. Bobsled team. From there, the little-known skeleton beckoned.
"I love the off-the-side sports," he said, listing triathlons, mountain biking, kayaking, and boxing as those on his interest list.

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