MOUNT PLEASANT — Nine Iowa Wesleyan students, accompanied by University Provost DeWayne Frazier, teamed up with ESPN this January at the 2020 Winter X Games in Aspen.
For those who don’t know, the event is an annual competition hosted by ESPN and ABC that highlights “extreme” sports such as skateboarding and motocross in the summer and sports like skiing and snowboarding in the winter.
The students, Kilie Akers, Athena Bester, George Chapple, Isaac Davis, Carlos Mateo Moreno, Ryle Murry, Patrina Regis, Alex Rivera-Gonzalez and Wallace Williams worked in a variety of different stations at the 2020 games, the first time the University has been on hand for the winter games.
In 2017, IW’s internship program participated in the Summer Games in Minneapolis, and the relationship between the University and the X Games has stayed strong, breeding once-in-a-lifetime opportunities for students to work at one of the biggest sporting events in America. This was the first time the University had sent students to the Winter games, or as far as Colorado.
‘ESPN has been a good partner with us the last few years,” said Frazier. “About five or six schools get selected to do this. We have an in because we’ve been with ESPN, but also because one of our former sports management professors that was here, his uncle is one of the executives working up there. It’s always a little bit of who you know.”
Williams, known by his friends and X Games co-workers as “Wally” worked both at “X Fest” a live music and athlete autograph session in the summer, as well as at the winter games, doing different jobs at both.
“What I did (at X Fest) was the ice dome,” said Williams, who has been a member of the Tiger football team. “I was basically like a bouncer, similar to a club bouncer but more kid friendly. I just persuaded people to come in, enjoy the cool air, eat Wendy’s, listen to cool music and watch highlights.”
When winter rolled around, Williams was a part of guest services, taking on a more professional role.
“That was a whole new experience,” Williams said. “I was able to experience new things, get out of my comfort zone and get out of my shell.”
Williams says he would like to one day turn his work with the games into a full-time job, a sentiment echoed by Chapple and Rivera-Gonzalez.
Chapple put work in with spectator interactions in the summer. His team, which also included students from other schools selected, worked with remote control cars, making a course out of mud for spectators to enjoy. In the winter, he worked at thepouplar Ninja Warrior obstacle course.
Chapple, a member of the Tiger men’s soccer team, is a native of England. He says sports have always been a big part of his life, and he enjoyed the new scenery that Aspen brought.
“Coming from a country where we don’t get a lot of snow, it was fun to see all these sports where I normally couldn’t be involved in all these sports,” Chappel said. “I was able to watch them and enjoy them, and feel like I was a little part of this big system they have, and this event that is so big in America, and all over the world.”
Rivera-Gonzalez, who Frazier calls his “personal body guard” due to his size worked the concerts.
“I helped people and made sure they weren’t too intoxicated or anything,” he said. “And just made sure everyone was safe.”
Rivera-Gonzalez, another Tiger football player, says his favorite part of the experience was seeing the smile on people’s face when he was able to help them out. Rivera-Gonzalez is multilingual, speaking fluent in both Spanish and English. He says he was helping spectators in both English and Spanish within the first hour of the first day.
“The very first day, I saw these people that looked like they were having trouble,” Rivera-Gonzalez said. “They were walking and talking in Spanish, and I went up and talked to the in Spanish. That really helped them.”
Frazier says IW was the most diverse school helping out with the games, a helpful tool for an event that boasts athletes from all around the world.