LAKE PLACID - Annie O'Shea and John Daly secured the U.S. National Skeleton Championship titles Wednesday after two days of racing at Mount Van Hoevenberg.
O'Shea, of Port Jefferson Station, claimed her second national title in dominant fashion, while Daly, a Smithtown resident, posted a blistering final run to overtake Matt Antoine by just 0.09 seconds to acquire his first career title.
"It's amazing to see how far this program has advanced in the last three years," said U.S. skeleton head coach Tuffy Latour. "It's so exciting to see the progression of the sport year after year, thanks to the recruiting and development efforts by the Olympic Regional Development Authority and the Utah Olympic Park. We've only seen the tip of the iceberg of where the program will be, and our team looks really strong heading into the Olympic season."
O'Shea led the women's field by 1.76 seconds to claim her second career title with a four-run combined time of 3:53.40. O'Shea decided to step outside of her comfort zone by changing up her equipment setup in today's final runs.
"There are a few things I knew I could do differently, so I experimented with my equipment today and feel comfortable with my plan going into next year," O'Shea. "I wish my last runs had been faster, but I'm still really happy with earning the title."
O'Shea started the season feeling unstable after knee surgery last summer, and was pleased to conclude the year with a championship win.
"Winning definitely gives me confidence moving forward," O'Shea said. "Our team is really strong right now, so I know team selection races next fall won't be a walk in the park. I still have a lot of work to do before we compete again."
Savannah Graybill earned her second consecutive national championship silver medal with a combined time of 3:55.16. Graybill slid only the fifth-fastest time of the third heat, but posted the fastest time of the competition in the final heat to maintain her overnight position. Lauren Salter threaded together a speedy third run to surpass Lauri Bausch, who was in bronze medal position after the first day of racing. Salter claimed the bronze medal with a total time of 3:55.56, while Bausch finished fourth.
Antoine widened his lead from 0.29 seconds to 0.45 seconds in the third run and was in position to claim his third career national title before Daly responded with a blistering run in the final heat. Daly obliterated the field with a finish time of 54.70 seconds, which was the only run clocked under 55 seconds.
"It was the last race run of the season, so I figured I may as well make it a good one," Daly said. "I love racing with these guys, and we're all only as good as we are because of each other. We really push one another."
Daly's four-run combined time of 3:45.26 moved him into the lead for his first national championship title.
"It's not easy beating these guys here, and I knew I had to work for it," Daly said. "I'm just really happy to end the season with a win, and I've always wanted a national championship title."
Antoine trailed Daly by just 0.09 seconds to claim the men's silver medal with a total time of 3:45.35.
"I can't say I've gained much confidence as of late, so that's going to have to be a goal for this summer," Antoine said. "My final run was the recap of how I've performed this season. This is a strong group of men, and there are no easy victories amongst us."
Kyle Tress maintained third position to secure the bronze medal with a cumulative time of 3:47.75.