West, Wesenberg slide to titles

CALGARY, Alberta — Greg West and Kendall Wesenberg emerged victorious Sunday on the second day of USA Skeleton National Team Trials in Calgary. The win marks West’s second in two days, while Wesenberg picked up her first of the 2017-2018 season after taking second in Saturday’s competition.

Athletes are racing in a series of four competitions, two in Calgary and two in Lake Placid, before the USA Skeleton National Team is named. Points from all four races will be tallied, and the top three ranked women’s and men’s athletes will earn a spot on the World Cup team. The next three ranked women’s and men’s athletes will race on the Intercontinental Cup tour to round out the USA Skeleton National Team.

West dominated the men’s race to claim his second consecutive team trials win by 0.37 seconds with a total time of 1:52.99. The seven-year veteran clocked runs of 56.56 and 56.43 seconds to solidify his team trials lead ahead of Olympic bronze medalist Matt Antoine (Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin) and two-time Olympian John Daly (Smithtown, New York).

“I thought I had an outside chance to do well, but I didn’t expect to win the first two races,” West said. “I took a different approach this summer by focusing on the little things, like the kitchen and my nutrition. I worked on virtual reality racing this offseason, and it really helped me out. I was constantly performing timing related tasks under a rush of adrenaline, and it kept my mind sharp. It usually takes a few days to catch up when you start sliding, and I felt like I was ahead of the game from the first run.”

West said he worked full-time from home this offseason for Spartan Race, and the flexibility of his work schedule, the alleviated stress of not worrying about money, and the addition of his virtual reality training were some of the components that allowed him to be successful in trials.

West began the sport of skeleton after watching the 2010 Vancouver Games on television. He quickly took to the sport, racing on the North American Cup tour after only six weeks on ice, and was named to the national team in only his second season. West is seeking his fifth national team nomination.

Antoine was Sunday’s runner-up with times of 56.59 and 56.77 seconds for a total of 1:53.36. He narrowly finished ahead of teammate Daly, who clocked a two-run combined time of 1:53.38 for third place. Antoine was fourth in Saturday’s season opener, while Daly repeated last night’s second-place finish.

Kyle Brown (Concord, New Hampshire) was fourth Sunday in 1:53.71, followed by Nathan Crumpton (Park City, Utah) in fifth (1:53.56) and Stephen Garbett (Parker, Colorado) in sixth (1:53.96). Mike Rogals (Orwell, Vermont), who was sixth yesterday, was just 0.01 seconds behind Garbett in seventh.

Wesenberg, of Modesto, California, beat out the rest of the women’s field tonight after taking second last night behind three-time Olympian Katie Uhlaender (Breckenridge, Colorado).

Wesenberg has competed on the World Cup tour the past two years after becoming the first American woman ever to win an overall European Cup title in the 2014-2015 season. She posted the two fastest individual downtimes Sunday en route to a 1:56.34 combined downtime and a convincing first-place result.

“It feels good, I did what I wanted to do tonight,” Wesenberg said. “These races are so close, it’s always a battle. It’s really cool, but you can’t let up.”

This is Wesenberg’s first time sliding in Calgary, and she was anxious entering the Olympic season with trials on an unfamiliar track. She leaned on her support system to prepare for the opening races.

“Noelle Pikus-Pace and Lincoln Dewitt were a huge help for me this week,” Wesenberg said. “They were super helpful getting me notes and talking me through the track. It’s an individual sport, but it’s a team effort. The coaches have been great this week, Jason Hartman is my strength coach and he’s helped me better my push, and sports psychologist Alex Cohen helped me bring it all together mentally. There were a lot of people that helped me.”

Uhlaender, meanwhile, ended up behind Savannah Graybill. Graybill, who finished third Saturday night, sat behind Uhlaender after the first run, but posted the second-fastest downtime of the second heat to edge Uhlaender by 0.02 seconds.

Uhlaender made the World Cup team last season, but an infection sidelined her for the first half of the season. She returned to post a season-best eighth-place finish in the PyeongChang World Cup event as the top American woman. Graybill started the 2016-2017 season on the Intercontinental Cup Circuit (ICC), but replaced Uhlaender on the World Cup circuit during her illness. She was then was pulled up to the 2017 world championship team after performing well on the ICC during the second half of the season.

Megan Henry, who edged Graybill by 0.01 in the first heat, fell back to fourth place with a combined downtime of 1:56.98. Henry also finished fourth in last night’s race. Samantha Culiver, Annie O’Shea (Port Jefferson Station, New York) and Gracie Clapp-Taylor were the next three finishers on the women’s side, setting up a tight race heading into the final two USA Skeleton National Team Trials races in Lake Placid.

USA Skeleton National Team Trials transition to Lake Placid for the final two races on Oct. 17 and 18 before the team is named. USA Bobsled National Team Trials have been delayed due to weather and are now scheduled to begin today in Lake Placid. The Lake Placid races will be streamed on www.usabs.com, and updates will be provided on the official team Facebook and Twitter pages.

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