USA Skeleton claims five medals in season-opening North American Cup races

Nov. 08, 2018, 8:07 p.m. (ET)

 

Contact: Amanda Bird, USABS Marketing & Communications Director
(518) 354-2250, amanda.bird@usabs.com

 

 

USA Skeleton claims five medals in season-opening North American Cup races

WHISTLER, Canada(Nov. 8, 2018)USA Skeleton athletes claimed five medals in the season-opening races of the North American Cup series in Whistler, Canada. Skeleton races were held on the 2010 Olympic track, which will host the 2019 World Championships in March, yesterday and today. Greg West(Springfield, Mo.) and Austin Florian(Southington, Conn.) each won bronze medals over the two days in men’s skeleton, while Savannah Graybill(Denver, Pa.) claimed two silver medals and Kendall Wesenberg(Modesto, Calif.) wrapped up the Whistler event with a win in women’s skeleton.

“This has been a great two weeks to get on the World Championship track and work on some of its intricacies,” said Caleb Smith, USA Skeleton technical and development lead coach. “The athletes have done a great job focusing on the team culture, working together and finding creative ways to solve complex problems on this track. I was thrilled to see their performances under pressure in a deep field with World Cup sliders. The speed that they were able to generate, even when there were small mistakes, shows their comfort here. It’s been a great week to prepare for the upcoming World Cup season.”

In the first women’s race, Russian Yulia Kanakina was victorious in 1:48.43, but Graybill was on her heels, finishing just 0.09 seconds behind for the silver medal. Graybill clocked runs of 54.57 and 53.95 seconds for a combined time of 1:48.52. Her second run was fastest of the heat, and the fastest run of the women’s competition.

“I set a personal best time by over half a second this week, but I wasn’t the only one in that boat,” Graybill said. “Everyone was setting massive personal bests. It’s been an awesome week. It’s been a collaborative effort between the World Cup and North American Cup teams; everyone has been talking about what worked, what didn’t, and I contribute that collaboration to why we all did so well. Caleb (Smith) is leading the way, and we’re working together to figure it all out.”

Canadians finished 3-4-6, and Wesenberg finished fifth to nearly complete a North American sweep. Lanette Prediger was third in 1:49.37. Wesenberg posted runs of 54.95 and 54.66 seconds for a total of 1:49.61 to secure fifth. Wesenberg’s offseason work to better her start times was evident with pushes of 5.10 and 5.04 seconds.

Kelly Curtis(Princeton, N.J.), still new to the racing scene, posted an impressive eighth place finish with a combined time of 1:50.12 after sliding to the finish in 55.11 and 55.01 seconds. Kristen Hurley(Columbia, Conn.) finished 14th with a two-run total of 1:53.37 (57.01, 56.36). Hurley is competing in only her second season as a skeleton athlete. She raced as a bobsled push athlete during the 2015-2016 season before making the transition.

Wesenberg and Graybill traded for the fastest runs of the field in the second women’s competition. Wesenberg edged her teammate by 0.12 seconds for the victory with a total time of 1:48.90. She trailed Graybill after a first run time of 54.42 seconds, but surpassed the entire field with a second run of 54.48 seconds.

“These past few days in Whistler have been a great starting point for the season,” Wesenberg said. “Coming into this training, a lot of my focus was on getting comfortable here and I feel like I finally started to put the track together by the end of the week. It has been great working with Caleb (Smith) and this team and I am excited to see what we can do this year.”

Graybill’s runs of 54.36 and 54.66 seconds combined for a 1:49.02 to secure her second silver medal. While she was disappointed to fall back, which was largely due to rolling out of corner six in the final run, she said if she had to lose, she’s glad it was to a teammate.

“The teamwork and camaraderie has been amazing,” Graybill said. “We learned a lot this week and have a better understanding of the track, which takes the fear away. We had a few quick days to test equipment, sled setups and runners, and I feel really confident leaving here.”

Prediger claimed another medal for the host nation, this time bronze with a combined time of 1:49.19. Curtis finished ninth in 1:51.37 (55.16, 56.21), while Hurley bettered her finish to 12th with a cumulative time of 1:54.63 (57.37, 57.26).

The Chinese team is already showing strength in the first event of the quad leading up to the 2022 Beijing Olympics with Wenqiang Geng’s victory in the first men’s race. Despite only posting the second-fastest runs of both heats, the up-and-coming Chinese athlete finished one-tenth of a second ahead of the field with a total time of 1:46.21. Ukraine’s Vladyslav Heraskevych led after the first heat, but fell back into second place with only the fifth best time in the final heat. Heraskevych claimed silver in 1:46.31.

West was 0.13 seconds outside of the medals after posting the fourth-best time, 53.55 seconds, in the first run. The World Cup team member rallied back in run two with the third-best time of the heat, 53.03 seconds, to move into medal position. West earned bronze with a two-run total of 1:46.58. 

This is the fifth time West has been on the challenging course and he said he’s had “an up and down relationship” with it.

“Last year I really felt like I embarrassed myself I was looking forward to getting another crack at the track,” West said. “Working with Caleb (Smith) has been amazing. It has been another way of looking at the track and I have made huge strides over the past week.”

Smith was hired as the USA Skeleton technical and development lead coach heading into the season. He was coaching Great Britain before moving back to the U.S. team.

“I’ve taken about a second off my personal best while also establishing a new personal top speed of 88.89 MPH,” West said. “So to say that it has been a blessing to have an opportunity to get some training runs in before World Championships is an understatement. I am leaving here confident that I have a plan of attack for the next time I am here.”

Florian is quickly emerging in the U.S. program and threaded together an impressive performance on the 2010 Olympic track on Wednesday. He crossed the finish line in 53.76 and 53.11 seconds to finish fifth with a total of 1:46.87.

Kyle Brown(Concord, N.H.) struggled in heat one, posting the 16th best time, but the veteran rebounded in run two with the sixth-best time. Brown moved up into 10th with an aggregate time of 1:48.50. Andrew Blaser(Meridian, Idaho), who was dissatisfied with his team trials finish, was looking forward to starting the international season. He finished 12th in 1:48.87 (54.66, 54.21).

In the second men’s race, Heraskevych was victorious in 1:46.04, followed by Chinese competitor Wengang Yan with a 1:46.67. 

Former alpine ski racer and two-time All American at Clarkson University Florian claimed the fourth medal for Team USA with a third place finish. Florian was fourth after a first run of 53.30, but the emerging athlete was second fastest in run two with a run of 53.39 to move into the medals. The American claimed bronze in 1:46.69.

“I’ve been to Whistler four times now, and I learned a lot this time around,” Florian said. “I’m very happy with how I slid and am feeling even more confident for worlds here in March. It feels good to ease into the season, and I’m very excited to race my first World Cup this season. I did make some good changes to my driving over the last two days and I am very happy with the improvements in my driving and pushing.”

Brown cleaned up his runs today to improve his finish to fifth place. The top American after trials clocked runs of 53.65 and 53.81 seconds for a combined time of 1:47.46. Blaser secured a top-10 finish with a two-run combined time of 1:48.30 (53.79, 54.51). West did not compete today.

The World Cup athletes that competed in the North American Cup will have a short time off before heading to Sigulda, Latvia for the first race of the series.

“I’m looking forward to taking a bit of momentum into the World Cup season and another incredibly difficult track in Sigulda,” West said.

For media inquiries, please contact Amanda Bird, USABS Marketing & Communications Director, at amanda.bird@usabs.com, or at (518) 354-2250. 

Results

Women’s Race #1
1. Yulia Kanakina (RUS) 1:48.43 (54.34, 54.09);
2. Savannah Graybill (USA) 1:48.52 (54.57, 53.95);
3. Lanette Prediger (CAN) 1:49.37 (54.83, 54.54);
5. Kendall Wesenberg (USA) 1:49.61 (54.95, 54.66);
8. Kelly Curtis (USA) 1:50.12 (55.11, 55.01);
14. Kristen Hurley (USA) 1:53.37 (57.01, 56.36);

Women’s Race #2
1. Kendall Wesenberg (USA) 1:48.90 (54.42, 54.48);
2. Savannah Graybill (USA) 1:49.02 (54.36, 54.66);
3. Lanette Prediger (CAN) 1:49.19 (54.62, 54.57);
9. Kelly Curtis (USA) 1:51.37 (55.16, 56.21);
12. Kristen Hurley (USA) 1:54.63 (57.37, 57.26);

Men’s Race #1
1. Wenqiang Geng (CHN) 1:46.21 (53.21, 53.00);
2. Vladyslav Heraskevych (UKR) 1:46.31 (53.19, 53.12);
3. Greg West (USA) 1:46.58 (53.55, 53.03);
5. Austin Florian (USA) 1:46.87 (53.76, 53.11);
10. Kyle Brown (USA) 1:48.50 (54.99, 53.51);
12. Andrew Blaser (USA) 1:48.87 (54.66, 54.21);

Men’s Race #2
1. Vladyslav Heraskevych (UKR) 1:46.04 (52.86, 53.18);
2. Wengang Yan (CHN) 1:46.67 (53.18, 53.49);
3. Austin Florian (USA) 1:46.69 (53.30, 53.39);
5. Kyle Brown (USA) 1:47.46 (53.65, 53.81);
10. Andrew Blaser (USA) 1:48.30 (53.79, 54.51);

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 Research, Boomerang Carnets, Hudl, Tesa Tape, PVS International, Ferris Mfg. Corp, Machintek, deBotech and Carpenter. For more information, please visit the USABS website atwww.usabs.com.

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