Most Americans have been watching the Winter Olympics for the past two weeks with a sense of pride, patriotism and awe as the world’s greatest athletes have converged on Sochi, Russia.
Lorain County Community College Athletic Director Katie Marquard is one of a select group who can watch the games and say, “been there, done that.”
Marquard, 50, was a part of seven Winter Olympic Games, as a speedskater competing in the 1984 and 1988 Games, and from 1992-2006 as the executive director of U.S. Speedskating, the national governing body of the sport.
She is now trying to impart the same values she learned in a lifetime on the skating oval to the student-athletes involved in LCCC’s eight varsity sports.
“Sports teach a great deal of life lessons no matter what level you’re playing at,” Marquard said. “How to win and how to lose gracefully, setting goals and priorities, the importance of a work ethic in everything you do.”
Her skating career had the humblest of origin, when at age five Marquard would follow her seven older siblings to the outdoor skating rinks of her native Minnesota. Eventually, Marquard moved through the amateur ranks to skate in the 500 and 1,000 meter races in Sarajevo in 1984, and four years later she skated in the 500, 1,000 and 1,500 meter events at the Calgary Olympic Games. Her best Olympic finish was eighth place in the 1,000 meter race in Calgary.
“The two Olympics were different experiences,” Marquard said. “In Sarajevo, there were armed guards everywhere. It was a poorer country, and of course there was the language barrier. The venue was outdoors and my first race there was a blizzard going on and they really didn’t have the equipment to clear the track.
“The facility was state of the art in Calgary. At the time, it was the fastest ice in the world. It was also the first time the event was in an indoor venue. In Sarajevo, only my mom, two sisters and an aunt made the trip, but in Calgary my entire family was there.”
Marquard said her favorite memory from the two Olympic Games was walking into the arena with her fellow athletes during the Opening Ceremonies and the feeling of pride that came from representing the United States.
In between the two Olympic Games, Marquard ran track and cross country at Morehead (Minnesota) State University, and also recorded her only World Cup speedskating victory in Lake Placid, NY in January of 1987.
While speedskating allowed Marquard the chance to travel the world, it was love that brought her to Northeastern Ohio. After she married, Dennis Marquard, a Lakewood native, in 1993, she convinced U.S. Speedskating to move its headquarters from Park City, Utah to Westlake. The couple has two children Abbie, 20, a sophomore at Duquesne University, and Nick, 18, a senior at St. Edward High School. Both are involved in track and cross country in addition to speed skating. Beginning next fall, Nick will be representing his country in another manner, in the ROTC program at Ohio University.
The Marquard’s also run the Lakewood Speed Skating Club, which currently has 50 members, out of the Serpintini Winterhurst Ice Rink.
After two decades in the spotlight, Marquard, who is a member of the Greater Cleveland Sports Hall of Fame, is happy to take in the Games from her easy chair.
“Our speedskating team isn’t doing so well this time so it’s been rather nice to be in the background,” she said. “I still have a lot of passion for the sport I grew up with. I want our athletes to succeed, because speedskating is really known to the world every four years, but as far as wishing I was still actively involved, that part of my life is in the past. I am quite happy where I am at right now.”
Prior to taking the athletic director position at LCCC, Marquard spent four years with the Catholic Youth Organization, overseeing the sports program in Lorain and western Cuyahoga counties.
“The administrative skills I’ve learned in my previous positions have helped me here at Lorain County Community College,” Marquard said. “Hopefully, I can impart some of my knowledge of life experiences on the young men and women who are student-athletes on our campus.”
At LCCC, Marquard’s duties include making sure all of the teams and student-athletes are in compliance with National Junior College Athletic Association rules, scheduling games and organizing game-day workers and officials, and arranging study sessions and fundraising.
“When I got the job as executive director of U.S. Speedskating, I was only 25 years old, but they took a chance on me,” she said. “Now I want to use athletics as an avenue to create opportunities in life.”