Kongela, Ro take 2017 USA Skeleton National Push Championship titles
CALGARY, CANADA (September 11, 2017)- Dakarai Kongela (Suquamish, Wash.) and Mystique Ro (Nokesville, Va.) earned the 2017 USA Skeleton National Push Championship titles in the men’s and women’s fields, respectively, Monday evening in Calgary’s Indoor Ice House.
Unlike bobsled, push championships are not mandatory for skeleton athletes and cannot negatively impact their selection to the national team. Each athlete had three total pushes in the competition, with the best two heats counting towards their overall time.
Kongela, who successfully defended his title after winning the competition last season, topped the men’s field by .06 seconds, beating out rookie Chris Strup (Defiance, Ohio) and Austin Florian (Southington, Conn.), who took second and third. Kongela, a former bobsledder, switched over to skeleton prior to the 2016-2017 season and competed in one North American Cup race in his skeleton debut season.
“I’m excited about the results,” Kongela said. “It’s been fun to be back on a skeleton sled. Team Trials are going to be my first time sliding skeleton in Calgary, so I’m going to try to have fun and to learn a lot. There’s so much for me to still learn, and I’m really excited to go into a new chapter. ”
Kongela’s 4.64-second first heat push was the fastest of the day, and his 4.70 second heat tied Strup’s 4.70 pushes for the second-fastest.
“I felt decent, I had a lot of pushes from this past week and was basically using this for training,” Strup said. “It was nice to see consistency out of the first two pushes. I’m looking forward to racing in Calgary during Team Trials. Learning a couple new tracks this year is going to be an awesome start to my career.”
Following the top-three, Alex Ivanov (Carlisle, Mass.) finished fourth with a 9.70 combined time, while Kyle Brown (Concord, N.H.) and rookie Dan Barefoot (Orlando, Fla.) tied for fifth. Two-time Olympian John Daly (Smithtown, N.Y.), who is still in the process of making a comeback to the sport after retiring following the 2014 Olympic Games, took seventh.
On the women’s side, Ro, who is entering her first full season competing in skeleton, edged out former push champions Megan Henry (Roxbury, Conn.) and Kristen Hurley (Columbia, Conn.), who took second and third with 10.18 and 10.27-second combined pushes. Ro’s 5.04 and 5.09 pushes were the first and third-fastest of the day.
“I was pretty nervous,” Ro said. “Looking at nationals, there were some pretty solid push starts from Lake Placid. But I realized I had to approach this as a brand new experience and take it as it is without focusing on the past competitions. I feel like this gives me a nice view of how things will be when we translate it over to actual racing. Because I don’t know the course as well as most of the other athletes, hopefully my start times will give me a little bit of an edge during Team Trials.”
The results tightened in the middle of the pack, as World Cup athlete Annie O’Shea (Port Jefferson Station, N.Y.) tied for fourth with rookie Michelle Toukan (Central City, Neb.) with 10.37 combined times. O’Shea and Toukan finished ahead of another two-way tie for sixth, as Gracie Clapp-Taylor (Saint Johns, Fla.) and Megan Dovell (Duluth, Ga.) were knotted at 10.48 seconds after their pushes.
USA Bobsled & Skeleton competition will resume on October 7 with the 2017-2018 National Team Trials, the final step to determining this season’s national team. Skeleton is set to begin racing October 7-8 in Calgary, while bobsled will begin October 8 in Lake Placid.
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1. Dakarai Kongela 9.34 (4.64, 4.70)
2. Chris Strup 9.40 (4.70, 4.70)
3. Austin Florian 9.66 (4.84, 4.82)
4. Alex Ivanov 9.70 (4.84, 4.86)
5. Dan Barefoot 9.73 (4.90, 4.83)
5. Kyle Brown 9.73 (4.89, 4.84)
7. John Daly 9.74 (4.89, 4.85)
8. Jared Firestone 9.75 (4.87, 4.88)
9. Mike Rogals 9.93 (4.95, 4.98)
10. Allen Blackwell 10.23 (5.11, 5.12)
1. Mystique Ro 10.13 (5.04, 5.09)
2. Megan Henry 10.18 (5.08, 5.10)
3. Kristen Hurley 10.27 (5.13, 5.14)
4. Annie O’Shea 10.36 (5.17, 5.19)
4. Michelle Toukan 10.36 (5.21, 5.15)
6. Gracie Clapp-Taylor 10.48 (5.23, 5.25)
6. Meg Dovell 10.48 (5.23, 5.25)
8. Kellie Delka 10.50 (5.24, 5.26)
9. Leslie Stratton 10.51 (5.26, 5.25)
10. Kendall Wesenberg 10.52 (5.26, 5.26)
11. Veronica Day 10.53 (5.26, 5.27)
About USA Bobsled & Skeleton
USA Bobsled & Skeleton (USABS), based in Lake Placid, N.Y., is the national governing body for the sports of bobsled and skeleton in the United States. USABS would like to thank its sponsors, suppliers and contributors for their support: BMW of North America, Under Armour, Kampgrounds of America, Thorne, Boomerang Carnets, Hudl Technique, Tesa Tape, PVS International, Ferris Mfg. Corp, Stress Engineering, Machintek, deBotech and Carpenter. For more information, please visit the USBSF website at www.usabs.com.