SCHENECTADY - It's been a long and winding road for Anthony Herringshaw.
But now, it's a long, winding and icy track that has his focus.
Herringshaw, 16, who was born in Ocala, Fla., and moved to Canajoharie 10 years ago, will be competing for a spot on the 2012 United States Youth Olympic Games team in Innsbruck, Austria, in January.
Anthony Herringshaw, center, receives a donation from Office of Children and Family Services Commissioner Gladys Carrion, right, so he can buy his own skeleton sled as he competes for a spot on the United States Junior Olympic skeleton team. Herringshaw is surrounded by his supporters. (The Leader-Herald/Erich Neuhaus)
Herringshaw is a former foster child living at Northeast Group Home in Schenectady.
"I never thought this day would be possible," Herringshaw said with a smile Monday when he received a donation of $4,140 from the Office of Children and Family Services that will help pay for a new skeleton sled.
It's tough to imagine who would think this day would be possible.
Think about it. A Florida-born teenager, who entered foster care in 2008 at Northeast Family in Schenectady, has already traveled halfway around the world because of his natural abilities in skeleton.
Not football. Not baseball or soccer.
Skeleton - the sport where one lies headfirst on a sled that whips around an icy track at speeds exceeding 75 mph.
"There's some points where it gets scary, but I love it," Herringshaw said. "It's something I really love doing."
Joining the Northeast family was obviously a blessing for Herringshaw. There, recreation coordinator Ken DeLong has been taking weekly group outings to Lake Placid, where the teenagers would get a chance to participate in bobsled and skeleton, similar to a field trip.
"He and some other kids got involved with junior bobsled and from there he progressed on to doing skeleton," DeLong, a Gloversville resident who's an international bobsled and skeleton official, said.
From there, Herringshaw's talents took off.
Standing out among his peers, Herringshaw had the chance to train at the skeleton driving school, where he once again, stood out.
In less than two years since heading down the icy track, his talents have taken him from Park City, Utah, to Calgary, Alberta and he even competed in world-class junior trials in Innsbruck, Austria, last year.
In Park City and Austria, he stood out, this time being the fastest of the American athletes there.
He also did it while using hand-me-down equipment, which included sleds, helmet and skeleton suit.
His suit was actually from 2010 United States Olympian John Daly.
Now, with fundraising efforts from the Office of Children and Family Services, he'll be able to get his own sled, instead of having to use the sleds provided at the track.
"I can't wait," Herringshaw said about having his own sled. "It's going to help me out on the track. It's going to get me to know more and able to go down faster... I'm happy now that I'm getting my new one."
The sled, he hopes, will propel him to the Junior World Olympics in Innsbruck, Austria and the Junior World Championships in Cesana, Italy, a week later.
For him to qualify, he'll be competing in four America's Cup races in November, two in Park City, Utah and two in Calgary. If he scores well enough there, he'll by a Youth Olympian.
Herringshaw said his biggest competition will be his best friend from Pennsylvania.
At the press conference at the Northeast Children's Home Residential Treatment Center cafeteria, about 30 of his supporters showed up to see the oversized check delivered from the OCFS to Northeast Parent and Child Society in memo to Herringshaw's training expenses.
Everyone is happy for Herringshaw's success and, more importantly, to help out.
When Gladys Carrion, the commissioner of OCFS, received an e-mail about the possibility of helping Herringshaw out, it was a no brainer.
"Everyone said 'Let's do it'," she said. "So agency-wide, we had a series of barbecue, picnics, bake sales and all of those good things to raise the money. Everybody was really engaged."
It's not just OCFS who has been supportive of Herringshaw.
Montgomery County Department of Social Services Commissione Michael McMahon said his agency has had Herringshaw's case for "quite a while now." It has watched him from when he was someone who had to be provided with basic needs, to someone they'll be watch closely as he tries to meet his skeleton goals and dreams - working toward making the U.S. Olympic team someday.
"He's unique in a sense that he's come a long way," McMahon said. "He's got a lot of cheerleaders in Montgomery County. He's got people that have seen him since he's been young. So he's got this following behind him, and that's what exciting and that's kind of what's unique."
DeLong said "He makes friends very easily" when he's at skeleton competitions, noting that he's met people from 17 different countries, and has kept in touch with some of them.
"He's very social, he's very warm," Jacey Hanson, his Montgomery County case worker, said. "He'll talk to you for hours about whatever is going on.
"We just love him to death."
With all the lov his supporters have given Herringshaw, what may be the most gratifying is watching him grow up before their eyes through one of the most daring and extreme sports ever created.
Herringshaw admitted himself that he's also matured since he hopped on the skeleton sled head first down the track.
"It's helped me to be able to succeed through a lot of things," he said.
To all of his supporters, that's worth more than a gold medal.
Right now, Herringshaw trains up to four hours a day on strength and speed conditioning with a team of coaches before he prepares on the skeleton luge run in Lake Placid in October. His first trials toward the Junior Olympic team take place on Nov. 7 in Park City, Utah.