Student athletes experience Can-Am up close and personal

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14 March 2012

FORT KENT– Keith Williams and Devon Leacock, two members of the University of Maine at Fort Kent men’s soccer team, experienced something unusual for them this year when the two athletes from the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago in southern Caribbean participated as part of a group of student athletes at the start of the 20th anniversary Can Am Crown International Sled Dog Races.

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CARIBBEAN GREETS ARCTIC - One of UMFK's senior student athletes, Keith Williams, is shown here helping to keep a dog team from taking off too early at the start of the Can Am Crown Sled Dog Races. - Julie Daigle image

Leacock, who is a UMFK freshman and had never seen a dog sled before, to say nothing of helping to start a race with over 60 dog sled teams, said stories about skiing that he relayed to members of his home town received disbelieving comments from family and friends.

Leacock may have a chance to surprise them again, this time with stories about the energy, controlled chaos, and sheer volume that is part of the start of every Can Am Crown race. He said he loved the experience.

“I definitely will do it again next year,” he said. “I wouldn’t think twice.”

He added, “If I could do it for the rest of my life, I would. I just wish I could be in the back of one of these [dog sleds] going down the road.”

Williams is a senior, and therefore, has participated in four of the Can Am Crown starts as a dog handler for various mushers, helping to line the teams up in order. His first impression of the races four years ago was not necessarily an encouraging one.

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CARIBBEAN GREETS ARCTIC TOO - Devon Leacock, a freshman athlete at UMFK from the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, handles for a dog team, something he's never experienced in his Caribbean home country. - Julie Daigle image

“My first thought of it was, ‘This dog is going to eat me alive.,” he said, laughing.

Even as an old hand at this, however, the student athlete said the energy of the dogs still makes an impression.

“Once you get them started, they just want to go,” he said.

Athletic Director Bill Ashby said the athletes get involved with the start as one of their many community involvement projects.

“We want to make sure that our athletes get involved and give back to the community that they live and go to school in.”