ALLIANCE – For Cheryl (Brown) Drake ’72, being an internationally competitive athlete was never something that she dreamt of being.
In fact, the former Salem High School flutist never played a competitive sport during her formative years, and was a frequent flyer of the bleachers when watching her kids grow up and play sports of their own.
That all changed around 14 years ago when Drake, decided to take up a unique sport with a rich Olympic tradition and join the Mayfield Curling Club.
“Curling is the kind of sport you can do all your life,” Drake said. “Some people pick it up as they grow older, and some are born with a broom in their hands and a love for the sport; it’s very intergenerational.”
Even though many in the United States only see it once every four years while flipping through channels of Winter Olympic coverage, the sport of curling has a history that extends more than five centuries and currently has more than 1.5 million registered players, per the World Curling Federation.
The recently retired Drake currently curls three-to-four times per week at the Club. Sometimes her husband, fellow Mount Union alumnus Dr. Richard Drake ’72 and a member of the University’s Board of Trustees, joins her in the mixed leagues and also curls in the men’s leagues.
Her hobby quickly turned into a competitive passion when she was approached about the opportunity to apply and compete in the Scot Tour, a 24-day, 20-game event where United States female curlers at the club level compete against Scotland’s female curlers, a competition that only occurs once every ten years since its inception in the 1950’s.
“One of our club members had the opportunity to compete ten years ago and brought the idea up to me, so I decided it was definitely worth trying,” Drake said.
The selection process is a rigorous one, as Drake was one of 20 chosen to compete out of a pool of women from over 60 curling clubs from five regions across the country. That select group of women then traveled to Scotland in November of 2016 to participate in the nearly month-long competition for international bragging rights.
Drake did not have much apprehension going into the tour, but she was concerned about being able to keep pace with such a strenuous schedule of events.
“The average player travels two miles per game, and with that many games in such a short timeframe, the stamina to continue was something I was worried about going in,” she said.
However, that fear quickly evaporated when Drake realized the unique opportunity she has on this once-in-a-lifetime experience.
“Once we began competing, the adrenaline rush seemed to never stop,” she said. “It also helped that the Scots treated us like royalty while we were over there, which was special.”
One hallmark of the trip for Drake was getting to carry the American flag during the on-ice ceremony, something everyone on the team had the opportunity to do.
“That was very emotional for me, as it probably would be for anyone,” she stated with a slight hitch in her voice. “It was like an Olympic moment for me.”
Drake helped lead the United States to an astounding 200-point victory over the Scottish women, bringing the trophy back stateside. Although participants can only be selected once for the Scot Tour, she made enough memories for a lifetime.
“Being selected to compete is something I never took for granted,” Drake said. “I knew I was representing my hometown, my club, Mount Union, and the entire United States, and I was incredibly proud and honored to do so.”