Garrett Apel’s love for sports has taken him from Johnstown to Lock Haven University, where he’s studying sports management, and recently to the Kentucky Derby in Louisville, Kentucky, for an internship.
“I got goosebumps,” he said. “It was an absolutely amazing time.”
The 2019 Greater Johnstown High School graduate and college junior heard about the opportunity from fellow student Ethan Walker, who mentioned the internship with QuintEvents earlier this school year.
Walker had completed internships with the organization before and said he wanted to spread the opportunities to his peers.
“I think it’s important, especially, for students to get their foot in the door and experience events like these,” Walker said.
He noted that the opportunities are not only good resumé-builders but also good for networking.
That includes internships at the Pro Football Hall of Fame inductions, Kentucky Derby, Super Bowl and several other events.
While interning at the annual horse-racing event, Apel had numerous responsibilities.
Prior to the festivities, he prepared ticket packages and mailed those out.
On the day before the Oaks, which is another race, and during the Derby, Apel guided guests to transportation and made sure they went to the correct seating sections.
He was also placed in the Home Stretch Club – a new addition to the Churchill Downs race facility that features a bar and buffet – where he monitored the area and kept it clean.
Apel said he helped in nearly every capacity and was stunned by the environment.
“It was absolutely packed,” he said. “There are a ton of people and the dress-up-nice stereotype is an actual thing.”
Men wore suits and women were in extravagant dresses with over-the-top hats, he said.
“It was overall an amazing experience and good time,” Apel said.
The college student said he could see himself working in that type of position for the short term.
Once he graduates, he wants to start a career as an agent with Major League Baseball – his favorite sport.
The Kentucky Derby isn’t the only sporting event Apel will get to participate in this year.
He’s considering another internship this summer with the Little League World Series.
Apel said he played baseball as a youth and always dreamed of making it to that championship.
This would be nearly as good of an experience, he said, and Williamsport is just 30 minutes from Lock Haven.
There are some final details he’s waiting to find out before committing to the event, but is excited about the chance.
“It’s an honor,” Apel said. “I can’t even put it into words.”
Apel’s former football coach and boss, Tony Penna Jr., was impressed by the student’s ventures.
“Those are just phenomenal opportunities,” Penna said.
Penna was the former Greater Johnstown High School football coach and owns Tulunes Living the Dream Bar & Grill in Geistown, where Apel worked as a cook.
Penna described Apel as a “really good kid and an extremely hard-working” person who is selfless on and off the field.
“He did a great job for us,” Penna said.
The former coach said he’s glad Apel gets to take part in premiere events and commended Lock Haven for offering them.
“There’s nothing that they’ll do that will match those experiences,” he said.
Joshua Byers is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. He can be reached at 814-532-5054. Follow him on Twitter @Journo_Josh.