Pikus-Pace and Schulz Win Skeleton Semi-Finals; Rohbock and Fleming in Lead After First Day of Women's Bobsled Finals

Oct. 11, 2008, 2:53 p.m. (ET)

Contact: Amanda Bird, USBSF Marketing & Communications Manager

(518) 523-1842, ext 106, abird@usbsf.com

For Immediate Release

October 11, 2008

Pikus-Pace and Schulz Win Skeleton Semi-Finals; Rohbock and Fleming in Lead After First Day of Women's Bobsled Finals

LAKE PLACID, N.Y. -U.S. National Team bobsled and skeleton trials kicked off today at the Olympic Sports Complex in Lake Placid, N.Y. under blue skies and moderate temperatures.  Noelle Pikus-Pace (Orem, Utah) and Luke Schulz (Davenport, N.D.) won their respective semi-final races in skeleton, while 2006 Olympic silver medalists Shauna Rohbock (Park City, Utah) and Valerie Fleming (Park City, Utah) took the lead in women's bobsled finals.

The top eight ranked skeleton athletes in the U.S. from the 2007-08 season automatically qualified to compete in finals, while remaining athletes had to qualify by finishing in the top four of their respective divisions in semi-finals.

Pikus-Pace, the 2007 World Champion, took the 2007-08 season off to have her first child, daughter Lacee Lynne, with husband Janson Pace.  Pikus-Pace took her first step towards returning to the team by winning the women's skeleton semi-final competition today by over two seconds with a combined time of 1:57.88.

"Today was the first step towards reaching my goals for this season," said Pikus-Pace.  "I try to stay as relaxed as possible before I go to the starting line.  Once it's my turn to go, I focus on what needs to happen to get me down the track.  It becomes about me and the curve ahead of me."

Pikus-Pace dominated the competition with the two fastest push times and finish times of the day.  Pushing a start time of 5.72 seconds in the first heat, Pikus-Pace sped to the finish with a time of 58.55 seconds to take the lead by nearly one second.  Pikus-Pace continued her domination in the second heat, pushing a 5.75 for a finish time of 59.33 to claim first.

"Now I have to concentrate on the next set of races," said Pikus-Pace.  "My thoughts are already focusing on the first race of finals towards qualifying for the World Cup team.  I'm really excited about racing next week, because it will be a great competition with a lot of talented athletes."

Previous World Cup athlete Katie Koczynski (Nyack, N.Y.) finished second with a combined time of 2:00.19 after runs of 59.54 and 1:00.65 to qualify for finals.  Rachelle Rasmussen (Belmont, Calif.), who will be competing in her first full season this year, finished third after runs of 59.76 and 1:00.77 for a total time of 2:00.53, while Kimber Gabryszak (Park City, Utah) grabbed the fourth spot to qualify for finals with a time of 2:01.36 (1:00.00, 1:01.36).

In the men's skeleton competition, Schulz surprised the field by taking the top qualifying spot with a total time of 1:54.25.  Schulz began sliding in 2006, and has steadily progressed to become a competitive athlete.

"I went into this season with the mindset that I've only taken two weeks off from sliding," said Shulz.  "I wanted to start the season where I left off in the spring, and I feel blessed to have had the opportunity to do that.  Tony Carlino (Olympic Sports Complex Manager) and his crew have done a great job getting everything ready for us."

Schulz led a competitive field of veterans, claiming first by over one second.  Pushing the two fastest times of the day, 5.02 and 5.04, Schulz maintained his lead, finishing with times of 56.60 and 57.65, respectively.

Finishing second with a combined time of 1:55.65 was 2006 Olympian Kevin Ellis (Dallas, Texas), who is making a come-back after suffering a back injury from an accident only days after the 2006 Winter Olympic Games in Torino, Italy.  Ellis remains one of the fastest athletes at the top of the hill, pushing start times of 5.03 and 5.08 today for runs of 57.00 and 58.65, respectively. 

"You can't discount Kevin," said Schulz.  "He's coming back from a really bad injury.  Competing in finals next week is going to be great, because there are a lot of great athletes I'll be racing against.  I'm going to enjoy the win today, and then tomorrow I need to focus on the next series of races."

Chris Nurre (Seven Hills, Ohio) finished third today with a total time of 1:55.82 after runs of 57.58 and 58.24, while Chris Hedquist (Washington, D.C.) finished fourth with runs of 58.00 and 58.78 for a total of 1:56.78.

Women's bobsled finals began today, with 2006 Olympic silver medalists Rohbock and Fleming in the lead.  The winner of the first race will be declared tomorrow, Sunday, October 12th by the sled with the lowest combined time over four heats. 

Rohbock and Fleming have a 0.93 second advantage over the field after the first two heats of the competition today with a combined time of 1:59.42.

"It feels good to be back on the ice," said Rohbock.  "Last year wasn't the best season for us, but it feels good to be back and to be sliding well."

The duo pushed a start time of 5.68 seconds in the first heat for a finish time of 59.68 seconds, and stretched their lead in the second heat by pushing a 5.67 for a time of 59.74 in the second heat. 

"I feel like we're a really strong team together," said Rohbock about her push athlete, Fleming.  "While everyone else was able to begin their off-season training in the spring, Val and I were still finishing rehab after our crash at World Championships in Altenberg.  We had such a late start in our training, and we have a long way to go before World Cup starts.  I was happy with today's result, and I think we'll continue to improve over the next few weeks."

Jamia Jackson (Lake City, Fla.) teamed with Bethany Hart (Milford, Mass.) to finish the day in second with a total time of 2:00.35.  The duo pushed start times of 5.74 and 5.73 for finish times of 1:00.20 and 1:00.15, respectively.  In third with a total time of 2:00.50 were Erin Pac (Farmington, Conn.) and Elana Meyers (Douglasville, Ga.) with push times of 5.62 and 5.61 for times of 1:00.21 and 1:00.29, respectively.

U.S. National Team trials will continue tomorrow, Sunday, October 12th with heats 3 & 4 of the first women's bobsled finals, and the first competition of two-man bobsled finals.

For more information, please contact USBSF Marketing & Communications Manager, Amanda Bird, at (518) 523-1842, ext. 106, or at abird@usbsf.com.

Women's Skeleton Results #1:

1. Noelle Pikus-Pace 1:57.88 (58.55, 59.33); 2. Katie Koczynski 2:00.19 (59.54, 1:00.65); 3. Rachelle Rasmussen 2:00.53 (59.76, 1:00.77); 4. Kimber Gabryszak 2:01.36 (1:00.00, 1:01.36); 5. Sabrina Hiteshew-Wilson 2:01.82 (1:00.56, 1:01.26); 6. Tracy Anderson 2:03.14 (1:00.96, 1:02.18); 7. Kelly Magnuson 2:05.95 (1:02.44, 1:03.51); 8. Babs Isal 2:08.27 (1:03.98, 1:04.29); 9. Elizabeth Swaney 2:15.03 (1:04.83, 1:10.20); 10. Audrey Thompson (DNF);

Men's Skeleton Results #1:

1. Luke Schulz 1:54.25 (56.60, 57.65); 2. Kevin Ellis 1:55.65 (57.00, 58.65); 3. Chris Nurre 1:55.82 (57.58, 58.24); 4. Chris Hedquist 1:56.78 (58.00, 58.78); 5. Matt Griff 1:57.17 (58.40, 58.77); 6. Ryan Wrisley 1:57.23 (58.23, 59.00); 7. Brad Stewart 1:57.25 (58.18, 59.07); 8. Thomas Abbey 1:57.68 (58.27, 59.41); 9. Chase DeHan 1:57.97 (58.17, 59.80); 10. Nick Vienneau 1:58.34 (58.54, 59.80); 11. Ryan Fischer 2:01.27 (59.91, 1:01.36);

Women's Bobsled Heats 1 & 2:

1. Shauna Rohbock and Valerie Fleming 1:59.42; 2. Jamia Jackson and Bethany Hart 2:00.35 (1:00.20, 1:00.15); 3. Erin Pac and Elana Meyers 2:00.50 (1:00.21, 1:00.29); 4. Bree Schaaf and Emily Azevedo 2:02.00 (1:00.92, 1:01.08); 5. Phoebe Burns and Michelle Rzepka 2:02.10 (1:00.99, 1:01.11);

About the U.S. Bobsled and Skeleton Federation

The United States Bobsled and Skeleton Federation, based in Lake Placid, N.Y., is the national governing body for the sports of bobsled and skeleton in the United States. The USBSF would like to thank its sponsors, suppliers and contributors for their support: Allianz Life, Vilter Manufacturing, CW-X, KBC Helmets and ULU Boots. The USBSF would also like to thank the following sponsors and suppliers for their partner, the Bo-Dyn Bobsled Project:  Whelen Engineering, PPG, Columbia Sportswear, JEGS Automotive, Lucas Oil, Mac Tools and Racing Electronics.  For more information, please visit the USBSF website at http://bobsled.teamusa.org/.