A change of tracks has one former All-American UO runner taking on the bobsledding world

EUGENE, Ore. — After a successful track and field career at the University of Oregon, Venessa D’Arpino was competing for Team USA when she received an unexpected offer to begin a different athletic career.

D’Arpino is an Oregon native who stood out at North Valley High in Southern Oregon. Then her and her twin sister went to Oregon State before transferring to the U of O.

All the while keeping those Olympic dreams alive, and a little more than a year after graduation, the dreams are still there, but with a different track.

From sprinter to bobsled racer, it was the power of family that drove D'Arpino to make the change.

From hot to cold, from west to east, D’Arpino made a life-altering decision because of family.

"My grandpa, who was passing at the time was like, get your butt on the plane and go, and that was the only reason I went," D'Arpino said.

Where the former Oregon All-American sprinter went was Lake Placid, New York to start a career in bobsledding. At the time she made the decision, D'Arpino says that she didn't even really know what bobsledding was. But with the urging of her grandpa, D'Arpino got her butt on a plane and went to meet Mike Dionne, a Team USA bobsled coach.

"I reached out to her, just like I do with a lot of athletes to see if three’s an interest and so that’s how the conversation started," Dionne said.

And D'Arpino quickly showed how her skills on the track could translate to the sled.

"She was picking it up quickly and doing all the things right that we would expect for that progression at the early stages," Dionne said.

And it was more than just a progression in competition, it was a lifestyle change.

"Now I go to the store excited about finding snow pants and that was never anything that was in my closet before," D'Arpino said. "But yeah, it’s definitely a different world to be a part of.”

But now she’s more than just a part of this world.

It is her world.

"While she isn’t ruling out a return to competitive track and field, right now Venessa is focusing on bobsled, where she hopes to eventually compete at the Winter Olympics.

 

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