Rookies push for titles in LP
LAKE PLACID — Kyle Wilcox and Sylvia Hoffman won the USA Bobsled Rookie Push Championships on the wheeled push track Saturday, Aug. 25 in Lake Placid. Quentin Butler and Karmin Shute were victorious in the USA Skeleton Rookie Push Championships.
Forty-two rookie athletes competed — seven women and 35 men.
“I’m really impressed with the quality and talent this pool of athletes displayed at this year’s camp,” Director of Athlete Development Mike Dionne said. “Quentin was fourteen-hundredths faster than last year’s best time, and it was good to see the women’s bobsledders so close in times. There’s a lot of strong, young talent. We had our first 17-year-old invited to rookie camp, and we’re looking forward to sliding camps in November so these athletes can continue their development and success on ice.”
Bobsledders pushed from the brakes only while skeleton competitors could choose to push from either the right or left side. All athletes were given the option to take three runs, and the two best push times were combined for a total. The competitors with the lowest combined times were declared the winners.
Wilcox played football at the University of Pennsylvania before finding interest in bobsled and skeleton. The 26-year-old competed in both the bobsled and skeleton competitions, winning the men’s bobsled division by 0.04 seconds with a two-run push time of 8.92. Wilcox clocked start times of 4.49 and 4.43 seconds. His time of 4.43 was fastest of the competition, besting the next quickest time by 0.03 seconds.
“It’s a little crazy,” Wilcox said. “Literally everyone is so athletic here and you’re like, ‘Oh gosh, I don’t know what to do.’ I’m a little lighter than some of the guys, so I was a little nervous to be honest. The entire week I’ve just been trying to focus on just individually doing my best and reminding myself that it’s a week into this, you’re still learning. I was like, ‘I’m just going to put my best foot forward,’ and I’m really glad with how it turned out.”
Blaine McConnell, a 32-year-old former football player from the University of Idaho, was on Wilcox’s heels with a total time of 8.96 after posting runs of 4.50 and 4.46 seconds. Jake Gourley, 22, finished third in 9.11 seconds after clocking 4.55 and 4.56. Gourley was a track and field athlete at the University of Iowa.
In the women’s bobsled competition, Hoffman was dominant with a two-run combined time 9.89 seconds. The 29-year-old posted starts of 4.94 and 4.95 seconds in the first of what Hoffman hopes is many bobsled competitions of her career.
“I’m excited, I feel like something’s in the air for me and I am ready for a change,” Hoffman said. “Maybe, hopefully, something on the Olympic status, but one day at a time, one practice at a time and then we’ll see what happens after that.”
Hoffman played basketball at Louisiana State University and also competed in weightlifting. Hoffman hails from Texas, but considers Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, home.
“I feel like I’m a very powerful athlete,” Hoffman said. “I do have a track and basketball background, so I have some type of running background to help me to propel the sled a little bit faster, a little bit harder. I tried to focus on running fast and keep pushing all the way through the line.”
Jessica Davis, who ran track at University of Southern California, was the runner-up with a total time of 9.95 seconds. Davis, 26, pushed start times of 4.99 and 4.96.
In third was Jasmine Jones with a 10.01. The 22-year-old, who ran track at Eastern Michigan, clocked starts of 5.01 and 5.00.
In men’s skeleton, Butler took the lead with a combined time of 7.12 seconds after runs of 3.51 and 3.61, edging out Kris Horn, who clocked the same total time, with the fastest single heat push time. Butler won the 2017 Next Olympic Hopeful, but discovered during his physical for his USA Bobsled & Skeleton membership that he was in stage five renal failure.
“I competed in Next Olympic Hopeful last year and won skeleton, but I couldn’t compete in rookie push camp last year because I had kidney failure,” Butler said. “I was invited to this one and I took the opportunity to get back into this. I was just released to begin doing activity again three weeks ago, so why not come out and see what I can do, and it turned out pretty good.”
When asked if he was looking forward to finally getting on the ice, Butler said he was terrified.
“I’m excited for it, but I’m terrified,” Butler said. “I don’t ride roller coasters, and I feel like it’s the same concept. It’s going to be a new experience, and I’m looking forward to it.”
Horn also posted a 7.12 total time with starts of 3.58 and 3.54. Horn, 24, was a track and field athlete at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Wilcox, the men’s bobsled winner, was just 0.01 seconds from the skeleton title with a combined time of 7.13 after starts of 3.55 and 3.58.
Shute, a 21-year-old track and field athlete from Birmingham-Southern, was the women’s skeleton title winner by one-tenth of a second. Shute crossed the line in 4.08 and 4.18 for a total time of 8.26.
“I have a background in track, I’ve been running for seven years, and it’s actually kind of funny because coach (Mike) Dionne reached out to me in LinkedIn after my national championship for outdoor, and I never really check LinkedIn, and at the beginning of August he messaged me again and asked if I wanted to come to rookie camp,” Shute said. “It just so happened I was on LinkedIn checking the messages, and was like, ‘Yes, I’m definitely interested.'”
“I’m not going to lie, when I first started this camp I was scared to jump on the wheeled sled and then I built my confidence up, and now I feel like, alright, I’m ready to get on ice right now,” Shute continued. “I’m excited, but I’m still nervous at the same time.”
Logan Wudi, 22, of the University of Oklahoma was second in 8.36 with times of 4.16 and 4.19, while track and field athlete Sabrina Anderson, 23, of Slippery Rock University was third with pushes of 4.20 and 4.19 for a combined time of 8.52.
The rookies have a few weeks before they take their first runs on ice in sliding camps to continue their development in the sports.