Gibbs, Meyers Taylor and Holcomb win USA National Bobsled Push Championships, Powered by BMW
The women’s competition was a fierce battle between veterans and rookies. Gibbs, a second-year competitor, edged out rookie Kehri Jones (Killeen, Texas) by a mere 0.01 seconds for the title with a two-run push time of 9.53.
“I didn’t come into this hoping to be number one, I just came in hoping to do better than last year and I did that. It gives me some confidence, which is great,” Gibbs said. “I’m still working on healing from an injury. Winning gives me more of a boost to go harder in my workouts to get ready for ice and I’m confident that my work this summer paid off.”
Before joining the national bobsled team Gibbs was a four-year member of Brown University’s volleyball team, where she was All-Ivy League Academic, Second Team All-Ivy League and team captain with more than 1,000 career kills.
Kehri Jones, a Baylor University track and field sprint athlete, earned her ticket to USA National Bobsled Push Championships, powered by BMW, after winning the preliminary competition last month. The 21-year-old was named 2014 All-Big 12 Outdoors in the 100 meters and 4x100-meter relay, and 2014 All-Big 12 Indoors in 60 meters. She pushed a combined time of 9.54 seconds to finish second.
BMW, a proud partner of USA Bobsled & Skeleton, works with the team year round to identify opportunities to support key team efforts, including equipment improvements, athlete assistance and future innovation. For the USA National Bobsled Push Championships, BMW sponsored a total of 15 rookie athletes, including Kehri Jones, to offset the costs inherent in participation.
After just one day of training on the push track, Lolo Jones (Des Moines, Iowa) posted a total time of 9.58 seconds to finish third, bettering her previous push championship result of fifth in the lead up to the 2014 Sochi Games.
Lolo Jones is one of only 10 Americans to compete in both the Summer and Winter Olympics. She raced with pilot Jazmine Fenlator at the 2014 Sochi Games before returning to her first passion, track and field, in her run for the upcoming 2016 Rio Games. Lolo Jones underwent right shoulder surgery to repair a torn labrum last November and tore her left hamstring in April. Despite her injuries, she’s remained focused on the upcoming 2016 Rio Olympic Games with encouragement from her bobsled teammates.
“My focus is on the Rio Olympics and oddly enough training for a winter sport helps compliment that perfectly,” Lolo Jones said.
Her teammates, like Meyers Taylor, were excited to have her back in the bobsled environment, even if it was just for two days.
“The girl hasn’t pushed a bobsled since Sochi, so to have her come out here and do her thing after just one day of training only brings the level of the team up,” Meyers Taylor said. “We’re all supportive of her pursuing her run to Rio and excited to see her crushing it on the track, but we’re even more excited for her to come back to bobsled one day.”
In June the international federation voted to reduce the maximum permitted combined weight for sleds and crew in women’s bobsledding by 30 kilograms. The change will be phased in over the next two seasons, and Lolo Jones said she wants to be there for her teammates when the rule change takes effect.
“My goal is longevity, and I’ll be in a position to help the team down the line when the new rule is in place,” Lolo Jones said. “I’ll be honest, it’s tough pushing a bobsled at the weight I’m at now, which is a lot lighter than I was in Sochi, but I’ll be able to adjust.”
“I competed in push championships because bobsled training helped me increase my power for blocks starts for track and field,” Lolo Jones continued. “I am one of the few female hurdlers in the world that does a seven-step hurdle approach. Most women take eight steps. To remove a whole step requires a lot of strength and this technique is really only used by men hurdlers. I was only able to do a seven-step approach to the hurdles after competed on the USA Bobsled Team. Pushing a 400-pound bobsled really helps me have an amazing track start.”
In the pilot push category, Meyers Taylor posted a two-run combined time of 8.24 seconds for her seventh national push title and fourth as a driver. Meyers Taylor won an Olympic bronze medal in 2010 as a push athlete before switching to driving and winning an Olympic silver medal in 2014.
“Every chance I have to compete allows me the chance to work out the kinks and dust off the rust and get back into the routine of racing,” Meyers Taylor said. “Competing in the U.S. is always challenging because it’s always a high level of competition. It forces me to push to the max and I have to make sure I have my ducks in a row.”
Push championships are mandatory for any athlete that wishes to compete on the national team during the 2015-2016 season. Drivers will analyze push championship results before selecting their team of athletes for national team trials, which begin in Lake Placid next month, and Meyers Taylor was impressed with the talent in this year’s competition.
“The talent pool is getting stronger and stronger,” Meyers Taylor said. “The veterans get better year to year and the rookies are pushing them. I’m pleasantly surprised and excited with the results today.”
Katie Eberling (Palos Hills, Ill.) (8.39) finished behind Meyers Taylor for second place in the women’s pilot push competition, and Olympic bronze medalist Jamie Greubel Poser (Newtown, Pa.) (8.56) was third.
Three-time Olympic medalist and five-time World Champion Holcomb clinched the men’s pilot push title with a total time of 8.03 seconds.
“It’s been a long summer and we haven’t been on ice or in a competitive environment since March, so it feels good to get back into the swing of things,” Holcomb said. “I’m happy with how things went today. I’m still coming back from an achilles issue that’s been lingering, so my goal was to go out there and see how it holds up. I certainly wasn’t expecting to push faster than I did last season, so it feels good.”
Geoff Gadbois (Milton, Vt.) (8.21) was second and Hunter Church (Cadyville, N.Y.) (8.35) finished third. Codie Bascue (Whitehall, N.Y.) pushed the fastest start times, but he was disqualified for stepping over the designated load line.
Justin Olsen (San Antonio, Texas), Nick Cunningham (Monterey, Calif.) and John Napier (Schenectady, N.Y.) were unable to compete today due to Army commitments and competed during preliminary push championships last month to meet their qualification to race this season. Olsen, an Olympic champion push athlete, will move to the helm of the sled this season to begin his career as a pilot.
The men’s push athletes will compete tomorrow at 9 a.m. ET.
“Tomorrow is going to be an interesting day,” Holcomb said. “There’s a lot of great new talent out there. The rookies are eager to throw down some serious numbers, and the veterans are going to step up their game. It’s not going to make my decision very easy when assembling a team for trials, that’s for sure. There are 27 guys, and I need to choose three of them. Every one of them are good, so at least I can’t make a bad decision.”
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