Two former University of Maine men’s track and field athletes will be competing in the upcoming 2022 Beijing Olympics. Frank Del Duca and James Reed, who both graduated from UMaine in 2014, will once again be teammates, as both were among the 12 athletes selected to represent Team USA on the Olympic Bobsled team.
According to the Bangor Daily News, Reed was selected as an alternate for the 2018 South Korea Games, but he did not have the opportunity to compete.This will be Del Duca’s first ever Olympics experience.
These two athletes joined UMaine’s men’s track and field team together during their freshman year. Del Duca began his career at Telstar High School in Bethel, Maine, where he competed as a sprinter and long jumper. In his first year at UMaine, Del Duca was a walk-on athlete, and by his fourth year, Del Duca was a team captain and an American East long jump champion. Del Duca still holds his rank among the top 10 Black Bears in the long jump event.
While Del Duca was winning long jump events Reed was breaking records in the 60-meter hurdles. Raised in Garmisch, Germany, Reed attended the Munich International School. His father attended UMaine, so Reed continued the family legacy. During the 2010-2011 season, Reed placed first in the 60-meter hurdles preliminaries at the 2011 America East Indoor Championship.
“To see two former UMaine track and field members reach the pinnacle of their sport, even if it isn’t the sport they participated in while they were at [U]Maine, gives us immense amounts of pride in that we hope we were somewhat instrumental in helping them to reach the heights they have,” said Mark Lech, head coach of the track and field team.
Coach Lech believes that a lot of what they learned and practiced in their track and field events carried over into their success with the bobsled.
“The fast powerful explosive actions they did are very much like the start of the bobsled,” Lech said.
Lech also attributed their academic endeavors while at UMaine to their successful careers as athletes. Del Duca graduated from UMaine with a Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology and Physical Education. Reed graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology and Exercise Science.
After graduating from UMaine in 2014, Del Duca trained as a push athlete on the U.S national team in 2015, but later became a bobsled driver after not qualifying for the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics.
Neither Del Duca or Reed were able to compete in 2018, but they’re both going into this upcoming Olympic season ready to ride.
In recent weeks, Del Duca earned top 15 finishes in four World Cup races in Germany and Switzerland, earning him his nomination for the Olympic team. Reed also earned his share of World Cup medals, collecting four between 2015 and 2017.
Del Duca is set to drive the sleds in the two and four-man races, while Reed was selected as a push athlete. According to Team USA, in a four-man race, a driver is responsible for steering the bobsled down the track after two crewmen push the sled down the track at the beginning of the race. A brakeman is responsible for stopping the sled after crossing the finish line.
This is not the first time a UMaine alumnus has been to the Olympics. Viktoriya Rybalko (‘03) competed in the 2008 Beijing and 2012 London Olympics, and like Del Duca, was a long jumper in track and field. Lech believes that any of his athletes can make it to an elite stage such as the Olympics like Rybalko, Del Duca and Reed.
“If you have the athletic ability, then find the desire to risk all to do it and do it now because you’ll only have a limited amount of time to be at your physical peak,” Lech said.
The bobsled competition at the 2022 Beijing Olympics is scheduled to begin with the two-man heats on Feb. 14. Del Duca and Reed’s racing begins on Feb. 19, when the first four-man heats are set to take place.