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Local students to track US bobsledder in 2010 Winter Olympic games
Daniela Tamayo, a New Holland Core Knowledge Academy third-grader, writes a letter to U.S. Olympic bobsledder Steve Mesler. Mesler selected New Holland teacher Laura Wingo’s classroom as one of 10 schools nationwide that he will communicate with during the 2010 Winter Olympic Games. - photo by Jessica Jordan

Yes, the United States has an Olympic bobsled team.

In fact, the four-man team won the Bobsled World Championship in 2009, and member Steve Mesler adopted a local elementary class through the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympic Games Back to School Project.

Third-graders at New Holland Core Knowledge Academy are learning all about Mesler, a Buffalo, N.Y., native who is a two-time Olympic athlete competing in the upcoming winter games.

The bobsledder adopted 10 classes across the United States, including New Holland teacher Laura Wingo’s class, to share with students his adventures at the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympic Games. Letters and e-mails culminate with Mesler hosting a live video conference with students from the Olympic Village just days before the Feb. 12 opening ceremony.

Students wrote letters to Mesler on Wednesday encouraging him to keep trying for the gold medal. They reminded him to eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, get good sleep and drink lots of water. Praying couldn’t hurt, either, some said.

"Make sure your shoes are tied good so they won’t slip off," wrote third-grader Hoffer Pachceo.

Mesler began his athletic career as a soccer player, and became a track-and-field athlete before attempting bobsledding. He has excelled at the sport where athletes rely on technical sled design, powerful push-offs at the start and intimate course knowledge to gain split second advantages in races where sledders travel up to 90 miles per hour.

New Holland teacher Michelle Lanz said she has known the University of Florida honor graduate for years, and she is excited students at New Holland will be able to connect with Mesler who has persevered through years of training despite multiple surgeries and a concussion.

Wingo said contact with Mesler may spur students to strive for their own dreams.

"I think they can see that if you keep working, keep trying hard and keep your eye on the goal, you could make it," she said.

Lanz said students will incorporate the relationship with Mesler into all aspects of the curriculum this winter.

Students will make a time line of Mesler’s life, write and illustrate books about bobsledding and read newspaper articles about Mesler. They also will study the history of the Olympics, plot previous Olympic games on the map and use math to determine how well Mesler is faring in his quest for the gold.

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