Q&A: Rachel Lewis takes her talents from the softball field to the bobsled track

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Courtesy of Rachel Lewis

Rachel Lewis at the USA Bobsled training site in Park City, Utah. The NU softball star spent two weeks there in November trying out for the national team pool.

Benjamin Rosenberg, Daily Senior Staffer

Rachel Lewis has been one of Northwestern softball’s best players since she arrived on campus. The second baseman was a second-team all-American as a freshman in 2018, leading the Big Ten in RBIs and runs scored. But Lewis’ athletic talent extends well beyond the softball diamond. Now a senior, the southwest Ohio native had the opportunity to try out for Team USA Bobsled last month.

Lewis had no prior experience with bobsled, but said she enjoyed her experience in Park City, Utah and plans to continue working at it. The Daily caught up with Lewis to hear about her new athletic endeavor.

This interview has been lightly condensed and edited for clarity.

The Daily: How did this opportunity become available to you?

Rachel Lewis: This past summer, NU associate head coach Caryl Drohan got an email from Mike Dion, who is the coach of development for the bobsled team. Caryl forwarded it to me because she knew it would be something that I’d be interested in. There was a virtual combine this year just because of COVID-19 and everything, and I was like, “what better time to do it?” I had a lot of help from people at school, setting up that combine and getting my videos turned in. And then I got contacted about a week or two later, and they asked if I could come out to Park City or Lake Placid, N.Y. to train for a couple weeks, and just go through a camp and see how I like it and see how they like me.

The Daily: What was the learning curve like while you were there?

Lewis: We had done a track walk before we actually went down. That’s basically where you walk on the ice down the entire track and go over each little curve. We had done a couple of those before we even slid, but you really don’t know what you’re doing until you actually go down. I really didn’t know what I was remotely doing until about the second week. Moving all the way up in two weeks — it probably doesn’t seem like a lot to someone who’s been in the sport for a while, but someone who’s new to it, it definitely felt quick. You can feel the speed differences when you go up higher, that’s for sure. Just learning each curve, each type of curve, it’s a quick adjustment.

The Daily: Is it pretty common for people who have never done bobsled before to go out to these trials?

Lewis: Yeah, it’s one of those sports that doesn’t get a lot of love. They have these camps for people they recruit from other sports. A lot of people in bobsled didn’t do bobsled as their main sport growing up. They’d never even done it until they’d finished their college sports, and then they got into it from there. It’s one of those sports where your athleticism can transfer over, but it still takes years to master.

The Daily: What precautions were in place while you were in Utah due to the pandemic?

Lewis: We had to quarantine for a few days and then get a rapid COVID test. Once we got our test results, we were cleared. When we went down the track, we would have to have our mask on until right before we went. We could take it off while we drove, but right when we got down, we had to catch our breath, but then we put it on right away. So masks everywhere, same thing as back home. And the number of people was limited in certain places.

The Daily: How supportive was your team at Northwestern throughout this process?

Lewis: I’ve gotten so much support, more than I expected. Everyone from softball, family members, people that follow me, it’s been really cool to have all their support. Coach Kate Drohan and Caryl have been checking in with me, and so have all my teammates. I’ve missed them a lot and I’ve kept up with them, seeing how practice has gone the past couple weeks. It’s weird not being with them.

The Daily: Where do you hope to go next with bobsled?

Lewis: This was more of a tryout to continue training and try to be a part of the team at some point. With driving, it takes five or six years, usually, to make the team, so it’s definitely not a sport you can just jump into. A few of us got invited back to train some more. I didn’t stay because it didn’t really make sense with softball right now, but they offered the invitation whenever I have a few weeks to come back and train. It’s definitely something I could stay in for years down the road.

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @bxrosenberg

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