Off The Beaten Track
LAKE PLACID, N.Y. -- Olympic hurdler Lolo Jones has posted an impressive start at the U.S. bobsled team selection races.
Seeking a push-athlete spot, Jones and pilot Jazmine Fenlator finished second in the opening night of selection races Saturday, their combined two-run time of 1 minute, 57.01 seconds just 0.05 seconds behind Jamie Greubel and Aja Evans (1:56.96). It was Jones' competitive bobsled debut.
Greubel and Evans set a track push record of 5.43 seconds. Evans won the national push championships earlier this season.
Nick Cunningham and Johnny Quinn (1:54.51) won the first series of two-man races, followed by Cory Butner and Jesse Beckom (1:54.58) and Codie Bascue and Nic Taylor (1:55.04).
Veteran pilots Steven Holcomb and Elana Meyers have byes onto the national team.
Jones was among a group of U.S. track Olympians who were invited to the bobsled team's push championships by coach Todd Hays last month, a decision Hays said was designed for them to "share their Olympics experiences with our athletes and to help boost team morale."
It also was a bit of a recruiting ploy. Bobsled coaches have long tried to lure athletes from the track world, noting that their combination of speed and explosiveness is perfect for sliding.
And it might be working again. Jones and Fenlator were the leaders after the first run of the competition, and Jones suddenly is finding herself in a sled that might be in contention for a World Cup team spot.
"I'm just trying to take it all in," Jones said. "It's a new sport for me and there's a ton of room for improvement. ... I'm coming in here trying to learn everything quickly. I'm looking forward to fixing some things and hammering it out."
Greubel and Evans rallied in their second run, continuing a breakthrough few days for Evans. Saturday's competition was only her third time on the ice at Mount Van Hoevenberg.
Bree Schaaf and Emily Azevedo were third in the women's race on Saturday night, finishing in 1:57.80.
In the men's competition, even with Holcomb having a bye, the top three sleds were separated by only 0.53 seconds, which U.S. coach Brian Shimer said is a testament to the overall depth of the program right now.
"Every single day is race day with these guys," Cunningham said.
Skeleton team races begin on Tuesday. Bobsled races continue Friday night, with the announcement of the national team to follow.