USA Bobsled & Skeleton Athletes Back for Training in Lake Placid
19 Oct, 2016
After a summer of combines, push championships and training, the 2016-2017 season officially commences this week with USA Bobsled & Skeleton (USABS) National Team Trials. Athletes took their first training runs of the season in Lake Placid, N.Y. today in preparation for the race series.
The USABS National Team Trials schedule is below, with times for Lake Placid listed in EST and Park City, Utah in MST.
Oct. 22: Two-man bobsled race #1 at 2 p.m.
Oct. 23: Skeleton race #1 at 10:30 a.m., Two-man bobsled race #2 at 2 p.m.
Oct. 24: Skeleton race #2 at 10:30 a.m.
Nov. 1: Skeleton race #3 at 6:15 p.m.
Nov. 2: Four-person bobsled race #1 at 9 a.m., Skeleton race #4 at 6:15 p.m.
Nov. 3: Four-person bobsled race #2 at 9 a.m.
The USABS Skeleton National Team is expected be named the morning of Nov. 3, while bobsled will be announced the morning of Nov. 4. All five disciplines have earned the maximum total of three quota spots on the World Cup tour.
Bobsled rosters are selected based largely on results from USABS National Team Trials. With each race, athletes accumulate points depending on their results. The bobsled pilot with the most cumulative points at the end of trials gets an automatic spot on the national team. The second spot is chosen based on the recommendation of the National Team Selection Committee, which is comprised of coaches, staff and USABS board members. The third driver is the next-highest ranked athlete at the conclusion of trials. Push athletes are selected based on a combination of not only trials race results, but also combine results, USA Bobsled National Push Championships and past results from previous seasons.
The selection process for the three men's and women's spots on the skeleton national team is fairly similar, where the overall winner of trials gets a spot on the team. The second spot is allotted by the selection committee and then the next-highest ranked slider earns the third spot. Team USA Bobsled & Skeleton is coming off a historic 2015-2016 season that resulted in 92 medals across six bobsled and skeleton tours. Many of the top athletes in both sports return for 2016-2017, and a promising rookie class will look to add to last season's success.
Women's bobsled pilots Elana Meyers Taylor (Douglasville, Ga.) and Jamie Greubel Poser (Newtown, Pa.) both return after strong 2015-2016 campaigns. In World Cup competition, Greubel Poser reached the podium in six of eight races, earning two gold, a silver and a trio of bronze medals. Coming off an injury that cut the first half of her season, Meyers Taylor returned for the second half of the season and medaled in three of the four World Cup races in which she competed. She went on to take bronze at World Championships in March, earning Meyers Taylor an automatic 'bye' onto the national team. Even though she's a seasoned athlete, Meyers Taylor said the first day back is always nerve wracking.
"It's the start of a new year, and I'm always a little nervous getting first runs in, I'm in combat-go mode," Meyers Taylor said. "It was a great first day back, it's always exciting to be back on ice, it's a lot of fun. Now I can settle in and get ready to work towards the competitive season."
In addition to Meyers Taylor and Greubel Poser, all of the brakemen on last year's national team are set to compete at trials. Lauren Gibbs (Los Angeles, Calif.) pushed for Meyers Taylor at World Championships, while Kehri Jones (Killeen, Texas) and World Champion Cherrelle Garrett (Hayward, Calif.) competed on the World Cup circuit last season. Last year's Women's Bobsled Athletes' Choice Award winner Terra Evans (Phoenix, Ariz.) also returns for team trials. Additionally, 2016 National Push Champion and 2014 Olympic medalist Aja Evans (Chicago, Ill.) will compete for a chance to regain her spot on the national team after a two-year hiatus.
On the men's side, three-time Olympian Steven Holcomb (Park City, Utah) and two-time Olympian Nick Cunningham (Monterey, Calif.) return to pilot an experienced group of push athletes. Holomb said opening day is always highly anticipated by sliding athletes throughout the offseason months, and getting back into the swing of the routine of bobsled felt good.
"The weather was amazing, which isn't really ideal for bobsled, but the track was in great shape and we had some pretty decent times," Holcomb said. "It feels good to be back on ice. Summer is tough because you can't do any bobsledding; it's just weight lifting and sprinting and training and getting ready for bobsled season. It's nice to get back on ice and getting into the swing of things."
Ten brakemen from last year's national team, including Team MVP Evan Weinstock (Las Vegas, Nev.) and Athletes' Choice Award winner Carlo Valdes (Newport Beach, Calif.), are set to race at Team Trials. Joining them will be rookie Ryan Bailey (Salem, Ore.), an Olympic sprinter who earned the title of USA Bobsled National Push Champion last month.
Annie O'Shea (Port Jefferson Station, N.Y.) will receive a 'bye' onto the women's national skeleton team due to her breakout 2015-2016 season in which she ranked fourth overall on the World Cup tour. O'Shea spent her offseason training in Arizona, and said it felt good to be back in Lake Placid preparing for the season.
"Sliding was great today," O'Shea said. "It's a great first day to be out here, the sun is beaming and it feels wonderful. Everyone is really excited like the first day of every season. The track is in really great condition. We really weren't sure we would be able to slide today because it's so warm, but of course (track manager) Tony Carlino and his crew got everything ready. We couldn't be happier to be out here again for the start of a new year."
With three spots available on the World Cup circuit this year, O'Shea's 2015-2016 World Cup teammate Kendall Wesenberg (Modesto, Calif.) will compete for one of the remaining spots with the rest of last year's national team, including three-time Olympian Katie Uhalender (Breckenridge, Colo.), 2016 USA Skeleton National Push Champion Megan Henry (Roxbury, Conn.) and Savannah Graybill (Denver, Pa.).
Matt Antoine (Prairie du Chen, Wisc.) and Nathan Crumpton (Park City, Utah), who both competed on the World Cup circuit last season, return this season. Crumpton and Antoine - the 2014 Olympic bronze medalist - finished in eighth and ninth place at World Championships last year, respectively. Antoine also spent his offseason in Arizona training alongside O'Shea and several other teammates, and he said opening day feels the same year after year, no matter how long he's been involved in the sport.
"It was a fun first day back on the ice, there's always a bit of excitement for it," Antoine said. "Couldn't have asked for a nicer day out with the sun shining and the color on all the trees. The first runs are certainly an adjustment period to get back into it. Can't say they were great runs, but always nice to get back to sliding."
Kyle Brown (Concord, N.H.) also spent time on the World Cup tour last season and returns for trials, as does the remaining members of last year's national team, Stephen Garbett (Parker, Colo.) and Mike Rogals (Orwell, Vt.).
USABS will be posting live updates from each of the team selection races. Follow along on Twitter at @USBSF or on its official Facebook page.
About USA Bobsled & Skeleton: USA Bobsled & Skeleton, based in Lake Placid, N.Y., is the national governing body for the sports of bobsled and skeleton in the United States. The USABS would like to thank its sponsors, suppliers and contributors for their support: BMW of North America, Under Armour, Kampgrounds of America, Boomerang Carnets, Classroom Champions, Aspen Institute's Project Play, Tesa Tape, UberSense, Ferris Mfg. Corp, Protostar, Machintek, deBotech, Carpenter and PVS International. For more information, please visit the USABS website at www.usabs.com.