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Driving toward a degree

Corey Reeves is an 11-time national champion World Karting Association Go Kart racer.

Despite being 21 years old and excelling in a sport most have no idea exists, the junior pre-med student is being driven by another goal – getting his degree in medicine.

“Racing is a pretty neat thing,” Reeves said. “But for me, it’s something I want to remain more as a hobby instead of a profession. It’s a different lifestyle than most people are accustomed to. It’s hectic all the time. I think on the exterior it looks really glamorous, but once you’re involved with it, it’s not as glamorous as it appears to be.”

Reeves grew up in Franklin, Wis. During a family vacation, he was introduced to the sport that he would eventually dominate.

“We went on a vacation to Florida for Easter, which is right around Corey’s birthday, and took him to a Fun Kart race track,” Reeves’ father Dennis said. “It was the first time he’d every sat in one of those karts, but he already drove it like a professional. He took it high and low, and ended up winning.”

The day at the track turned into a regular occurrence.

“We ended up going every day of our vacation, Dennis said. “When we got back to Wisconsin, his mother and I began discussing possibilities for Corey to maybe take this up as a hobby.”

Corey began racing several classes of karts, but they were nothing like the Fun Track karts he started on.

“There are different types of karts with different specifications,” Corey said. “They run about 100 miles per hour, so they are not the types of karts people see at Malibu Grand Prix. They are only a few inches off of the ground and there are no seat belts.”

Even though Corey had a natural knack for the racetrack, he remembers that he had a lot of work to do before his parents would let him compete on a circuit.

“I remember that I had to practice for a full year before I was even allowed to race,” Corey said.

Even though Corey had practiced for a full year, his first competition was something that his parents would rather forget.

“I told him not to get too wild,” Dennis said. “I told him to maintain his position from the first race, but he said that he ‘was going to ride up front.’ He had that much confidence. He started passing cars left and right on the first lap, but, unfortunately for him, a car spun right in front of him. He hit the kart, flipped, and the kart ended up on top of him.”

Corey suffered no injuries in the crash, but his racing career came to a halt.

“For a whole year and a half or two years after (the wreck) I didn’t race. I just practiced a lot,” Corey said. “But because I practiced so much, I was able to be competitive right away when I was able to race again.”

Corey began tearing through the competition, earning sponsorship deals and even building an entire team. His teammate and mentor – Kevin Nelson – saw several key qualities that made Corey succeed.

“The one word to describe him (on the racetrack) would probably be intense,” Nelson said. “I think he’s a much more cerebral driver than most of the other drivers out there. On the track, you can tell he’s thinking.”

Being smart on the track – combined with natural ability – began to pay off in 2003.

“In 2003, 2004 and 2005, I won what’s called the Triple Crown Championship,” Corey said. “I won a national championship in three different classes each year. So in that span, I won nine national championships. Since then, I’ve won two more.”

With 11 national championships on his mantle, Corey could have had his pick of professional racing jobs. However, he has decided to get a degree in medicine from USF.

“There were offers on the table, but I turned all of them down,” Corey said. “There are days in organic chemistry where I wished I was out racing, but I’m doing really well. I’m staying focused, and doing well in school.”

For Dennis, Corey’s decision to focus on school makes him happy, although he said he thinks Corey would have succeeded in a field other than medicine.

“For him to stay focused on school is really a dream come true for me,” Dennis said. “I think he would have been a great engineer, no question about it. He really is knowledgeable on engines and mechanical stuff. However, he’s always looked at the human body as the ultimate machine, and I think that’s why he wants to be in medicine.”

Corey continues to run races when he has time, but school comes first.

“I run a lot of races when school is out,” Corey said. “But I haven’t been able to run a full schedule in a while because of school. Fortunately, I’m getting settled in to school, and I’m going to be able to run more races in the future.”

For Dennis, that means a lot.

“Corey works very hard and he’s very mature,” Dennis said. “He’s my best friend.”