- Veronica Day (Vienna, Va.) and John Daly (Smithtown, N.Y.) claimed their respective U.S. National Skeleton Push Championship titles in Lake Placid, N.Y. on Saturday to kick start the 2012-2013 competitive season.
“It’s always exciting watching the athletes measure themselves head to head in a fun competition,” saidU.S.skeleton head coach Tuffy Latour. “It gives the coaching staff the opportunity to scout out talent for the next Olympics, and we have the opportunity to compare apples to apples rather than gauging talent as athletes compete on different tours and at various venues throughout the season.”
The athlete with the lowest combined time after two heats on the wheeled push track was named the 2012 push champion. Thirty-four athletes from around the nation met inLake Placidto battle for the coveted title.
Day, anElonUniversityalumna, is entering only her second season. The former collegiate jumper and sprinter transferred her skills to the ice last season and was quickly identified as an emerging elite athlete in the sport of skeleton. Day was eager to return to competition after her first off-season training for the sport.
“Push championships definitely gets me and the rest of the team back into the spirit of the season,” Day said. “There isn’t a better way to spark the competitive spirit than an actual competition. It has been a long break from the ice and I know the team has really worked hard over the summer in preparation for the season. This was everyone’s first opportunity to display the gains they made in the off-season.”
Day claimed her first national push title by nearly one-tenth of a second with a combined time of 10.66 seconds in the women’s division. Her first push of 5.35 seconds put her in the lead, and Day shattered the track record in the second heat with a time of 5.31 seconds to solidify her win.
“It is a big confidence booster for me in knowing that the hard work I put in over the summer has paid off right at the start of the season,” Day said. “I am still new to the sport, and making big gains before the season begins is all any athlete can do until we actually get to be on ice again.”
America’s Cup medalist Lauren Salter (Idyllwild,Calif.) claimed silver with a total time of 10.75 seconds. Salter was on Day’s heels after a first push of 5.41 seconds and upped the ante in the second heat by clocking a time of 5.34 seconds to initially break the track record before Day’s final run.
Second year athlete Caitlin Carter (Carrolton,Texas) finished third after posting a combined time of 10.85 seconds. Carter, a women’s professional football player for the Lone Star Mustangs inDallas,Texas and a sports performance coach, posted push times of 5.44 and 5.41 seconds to earn the bronze medal.
Olympian Daly earned his fourth push championship title by just 0.01 seconds in the men’s division, and scored 789 points out of a possible 800 in the combine test. Daly claimed the gold medal after posting identical push times of 4.85 seconds for a combined time of 9.70 seconds.
“Push championships and the combine test went as well as it could have possibly gone,” Daly said. “Being number one in both events and having personal bests shows that I have worked hard all summer, and my confidence is as high as it can be heading into this season.”
Mitch Danbe (San Jose,Calif.) posted a first run of 4.88 seconds and closed the gap on Daly by breaking the men’s track record in the second heat with a time of 4.83 seconds. Danbe trailed by only 0.01 seconds for second place.
PrincetonUniversitygraduate Nathan Crumpton (Colorado Springs,Colo.) secured the bronze medal with a total time of 9.73 seconds after clocking push times of 4.85 and 4.88 to make the race for gold one of the most competitive in recent years.
“We have a lot of fast rookies around and they have been pushing the boundaries,” Daly said. “TheUnited Statesprogram has some of the best athletes in the world. I’m really happy with my personal results, and equally as happy to watch my teammates post big numbers across the board.”
“These push championships were awesome, and I couldn’t have asked for a better competition,” Latour said. “And a special thanks goes out to theLake Placidsports medicine, strength training and Olympic Training Center staff for their support during our event.”
The preseason action continues with bobsled push championships this weekend. Bobsled pilots will battle for the title on Friday, Oct. 5 at 10 am followed by the women’s bobsled push athlete competition at 11 am. The men’s push athletes will fight for gold on Saturday, Oct. 6 at 10 am.