USA Skeleton announces Cup squads for upcoming season

LAKE PLACID — The World Cup and Intercontinental Cup squads for the 2019-2020 season were announced Sunday following a series of four USA Skeleton National Team Trials races in Lake Placid. Athletes accumulated points over the last two weeks in the race series to earn their positions on the team.

Austin Florian, of Southington, Connecticut, and Kendall Wesenberg, of Modesto, California, earned their right as USA 1 after winning USA Skeleton National Championships in March 2019. 

Andrew Blaser (Meridian, Idaho) completed a sweep of all four men’s races to secure his first World Cup team berth as USA 2. Megan Henry (Roxbury, Connecticut) won her second consecutive race in the women’s field Sunday to solidify herself as USA 2 on the women’s World Cup tour.

Alex Ivanov (Carlisle, Massachusetts) and Savannah Graybill (Denver, Pennsylvania) were consistent throughout trials to earn the third and final position on the World Cup team as USA 3.

The World Cup tour will kick off in Lake Placid with double races in December. The first race was originally scheduled for Park City, Utah in late November, but unexpected refrigeration repairs led to the event’s cancellation. The World Cup tour will continue in Winterberg, Germany after the holiday. Additional stops include La Plagne, France; Igls, Austria; Koenigssee, Germany; St. Moritz, Switzerland; and Sigulda, Latvia before concluding with the 2020 World Championships in Altenberg, Germany.

The Intercontinental Cup team will be led by Mike Rogals (Orwell, Vermont) and Katie Uhlaender (Breckenridge, Colorado), who both finished trials ranked fourth. Daniel Barefoot (Johnstown, Pennsylvania) will race as the men’s USA 5 entry, and Steven Garbett (Colorado Springs, Colorado) as USA 6. Kelly Curtis (Princeton, New Jersey) and Sara Roderick (Truro, Massachusetts) will join Uhlaender as USA 5 and 6, respectively, on the women’s team.

The Intercontinental Cup tour begins in Sochi, Russia Nov. 19. The tour will make stops in Winterberg and Koenigssee, Germany before returning to home ice in Lake Placid in Janaury, and will conclude on the 2018 Olympic track in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

Blaser and Henry capture wins in Team Trials race

LAKE PLACID — Andrew Blaser claimed his third consecutive win in the men’s USA Skeleton Team Trials competition Saturday, while Megan Henry pulled off an upset in the women’s field with her first win of trials. Challenging weather canceled the last two days of training, but the track crew at Mount Van Hoevenberg in Lake Placid had the ice close to track record speeds Saturday. 

“It was really windy, but the track crew put it together,” USA Skeleton Head Coach Tuffy Latour said. “There were some interesting changes in placements today, and it may come down to the final run of the race series to determine the national team.”

Three World Cup quota spots are available for both the women’s and men’s teams. Austin Florian and Kendall Wesenberg already have spots locked in thanks to their USA Skeleton National Championships wins, leaving two spots on both teams up for grabs.

Blaser entered Saturday’s race with a solid lead of 432 points from winning the first two trials competitions. He was victorious with a combined time of 1:47.95 after posting runs of 53.78 and 54.17 seconds.

Blaser has struggled with the Lake Placid track in the past, but luckily it’s become one of his favorites since last season. His home track in Park City, Utah was forced to cancel the second portion of trials due to a refrigeration problem.

“I spent some more time in Lake Placid last year and have been focusing on finding comfort in chaos this season,” Blaser said. “Things are constantly changing, and I think it’s been a benefit to have to face a little adversity early this season. Having confidence on the start line has been a very big benefit for me.”

Mike Rogals, of Orwell, Vermont, who entered Saturday ranked third in points, closed in on Blaser after finishing just 0.15 seconds from the lead with a two-run total of 1:48.10. Austin McCrary had an impressive day with an aggregate time of 1:48.28 to finish third.

Alex Ivanov, who was second overall in points, finished fourth.

With just two spots up for grabs, Henry was eager to move up from her third place ranking after races one and two in the women’s field. She’s been the fastest women’s competitor in three of the six race runs during trials, but the veteran has struggled to find consistency. 

“The biggest thing that I focused on for this week was consistency,” Henry said. “I struggled with that in curve 10 specifically last weekend. Even though they weren’t perfect runs, I just focused on thing at a time.”

Henry was in second place after a first heat time of 55.10 seconds, behind only Savannah Graybill, who raced to the finish in a speedy 54.85 seconds.

“Today was awesome,” Henry said. “We knew the ice was going to be really nice. Savannah really set the tone for the women’s race.”

Excited by her teammate’s time, Henry blasted off the start in 5.21 seconds and navigated her way to the finish in 55.07 seconds to overtake the lead by a mere 0.03 seconds.

“I knew after last weekend that I was capable, it was just a matter of executing,” Henry said.

  Graybill has finished second in every team trials race this season and entered today ranked second. Thanks to double wins last weekend Katie Uhlaender held the lead with 437 points compared to Graybill’s 390, but Uhlaender’s winning streak came to an end today with a third place finish. Uhlaender clocked a combined time of 1:50.75 to keep herself in the running for a national team spot.