PARK CITY -- Gov. Mike Leavitt's goal Saturday in the Governor's Cup Bobsled Race was to get more kids involved in Olympic sports like bobsledding.
Monte Mounga's goal was to get down the Utah Winter Sports track faster than Leavitt.They both got what they wanted.
Mounga, a Utah sponsor of Tongan bobsledders, told his bobsled coach, 17-year-old Jeremy Holm of Salt Lake City, that he wanted to beat the governor. Holm nodded in agreement. They climbed inside Roy High's school-built sled, traveled through a couple of mind-numbing turns at speeds over 40 miles an hour and finished in 36.88 seconds.
Good enough for the gold.
Leavitt said the Governor's Cup was precisely his vision: hundreds of people cheering for the students who developed sleds at Ben Lomond, Granite, Roy and South Summit high schools.
"Today we've seen the beginning of what will become an annual, growing event," Leavitt said. "We're going to see gold medalists from Utah."
Roy High's Carl Wooten hopes to be one of them.
"That's my dream," he said. If it weren't for the bobsled program Wooten wouldn't have experienced the high-speed rush of bobsledding, he said.
He coached Leavitt to a second-place finish. Leavitt beat SLOC President and CEO Mitt Romney by a mere 0.18 of a second for the silver. Leavitt, who drove Granite High School's sled, finished in 38.25 seconds.
South Summit's bobsled wasn't quite done because the teacher overseeing the project got sick. Still, Robert Brems, Utah's associate superintendent of applied technology education, drove a borrowed bobsled, finishing last at 41.70 seconds.
Besides involving hundreds of students in building bobsleds, the bobsled program introduced many to the Olympic sport. The top four, including Wooten, competed in a juniors' race in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.
Those four were the coaches at the Governor's Cup.
Mounga's winning sled was made by Roy High School students. The builders of that sled, 17-year-olds Jeff Hamilton and Shawn Martin, rode to a second-place finish in their competition with the other schools.
The only hint at scandal in this competition came during the student competition. Granite High's Travis Oliphant and Frank Vega had Olympic pushers sending them off to a winning finish at 35.99 seconds.
Saturday's bobsled race was a dream come true for Bob Bills, the youth-program director for the Salt Lake Organizing Committee. The governor challenged Utah high school shop classes to build the best bobsled and he would ride it.
"The governor put us on the spot so we put him on the spot and told him to drive it," Bills said. The school-built bobsleds will be turned into training sleds, he added.
Romney saluted the governor for his vision.
"It's all about reaching for greatness," Romney said.
And the bobsled program is just a start, added Pat Brown of the U.S. Bobsled & Skeleton Federation.Comment on this story
"The young people who built these sleds we hope will inspire them to build us even better sleds."
It made a bobsled builder out of Hamilton.
He didn't know a bobsled from a luge until he learned how to make Roy High's bobsled.
"Roy High came out on top in the celebrity runs," Hamilton said, putting another hundred watts into his smile.
He said he's really proud that future Olympians will be practicing on Roy High's sled. Mostly, he was in awe of being part of it.
"Just think, in three years we'll see Olympians racing on these same tracks," Hamilton said.