Representing U.S. invigorates East grad

Having arrived back in Utah a day earlier from the Winter World University Games in Granada, Spain, 2011 Columbus East graduate Taylor Wentz was showing no signs of jet lag.

“It was my first international trip,” said Wentz, who earned a spot on the United States team in speedskating. “It was exciting.”

Wentz, who was speaking from her home in Midvale, Utah, kept her positive, excited tone throughout the phone interview, which was quite different than a year ago when she missed a U.S. Olympics qualifying time by one-one hundredth of a second.

Her tone then represented her frustrated, tired and uncertain state. At that time, Wentz didn’t know if she had another year of speedskating in her. She had moved to Utah to train at the U.S. Olympic Oval in Kearns, Utah, but was anxious to get her college career started.

On Tuesday, though, it was full-speed ahead in speedskating.

“I take it one year at a time,” said Wentz, who competed in the 1,500 meters in Granada but failed to make it out of the quarterfinals. “But I will start summer training in June and I plan on skating the season (September through March).

“Last year was tough. I felt I had to qualify for the Olympic Trials and it didn’t work out. I was kind of burned out. This year, we’ve had new people come into skating and I have a new coach (former U.S. team member Kyle Uyehara). I feel like I’ve had a fresh start.”

Wentz said the Winter World University Games berth was a huge reward for her hard work. The U.S. took a six-person women’s team and a six-person men’s squad to the speedskating event, which was Feb. 11-13.

“It was really exciting to represent the U.S. for the first time,” she said. “I know I didn’t make it out of the quarterfinal, but racing internationally is totally different. It was great to get that experience.”

She was racing against some of the sport’s top athletes who she had only seen on television competing at World Cup events. Being in the same race with them did make her a bit nervous.

“Hopefully, the next time I am on a World Cup team, I won’t be as intimidated,” she said. “I think I will know that it doesn’t matter who is in your race or what country they are from, they are just another racer.”

Besides the nerves, Wentz said she learned more about strategy.

She explained that skaters can block a competitor’s line to slow them down, kind of like playing defense. Skaters change the way they attack corners so their competitors are unsure of their own lines.

“There is a lot of jockeying for position,” she said. “You have to go in with a game plan.”

Wentz, 22, needed to get a quick game plan together before the event.

All competitors who competed in the Winter World University Games had to be enrolled in college, which presented a problem for Wentz, who hadn’t started yet. “I had been planning to enroll in school,” she said. “But I wasn’t aware of this grant the U.S. team would get to send us (to the Winter World University Games). When I found out about the grant, I signed up for school in one week. Salt Lake Community College was very helpful getting all the paperwork together.”

She is glad it all worked out.

“For sure, it showed me a different side of speedskating,” said Wentz, who works as a waitress and figure skating coach. “Skating domestically, you see the same people and the same places. This was 10 times more fun.

“The city of Granada was really amazing and it was exactly as you would picture it in your mind, the hills, the narrow streets the pretty trees. Being there was amazing. It lets me know that what I am working for is obtainable.”

Wentz, whose parents are Eldon and Carol Wentz of Columbus, skated for “Elite Speed” of Columbus before moving to Utah.

At a glance

Taylor Wentz

WHAT: Earned berth on U.S squad that competed in Winter World University Games in Granada, Spain Feb. 11-13.

EVENT: Wentz competed in 1,500 meters quarterfinal but did not advance

AGE: 22

HIGH SCHOOL: 2011 Columbus East graduate

TRAINS: at Olympic Oval, Kearns, Utah

DID YOU KNOW?: The Winter World Games was Wentz’s first international competition