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Graybill positions for shot at Worlds medal

WHISTLER, British Columbia — Savannah Graybill is in the mix after tying for seventh after the first two heats of women’s skeleton World Championships in Whistler. Kendall Wesenberg is currently in 11th, while Megan Henry enters Friday’s final heats in 18th.

“I feel confident going into day two,” Graybill said. “I made a few small errors that add up, but I still had two solid runs. It’s such a fast and technical track, and I think because it’s scary it allows me to turn my mind off and to do what I know how to do. There’s no time to over think, you have to execute to get through each corner.”

In only her second women’s skeleton World Championships, Graybill is threatening for the medals. USA athletes joined forces to earn the World Championship bronze medal on Sunday, and Graybill helped lead the way to the podium with the fastest run of the women’s skeleton heat. 

“The cool thing about the team competition is that you’re getting one of your training runs on race prepped ice,” Graybill said. “That run helped me realize I can do this on race day, not just on training days. It eliminated any of those questions that swirl through my head, so I had confidence coming into the race.”

Graybill posted the 19th best start time of 5.04 seconds and used her driving skills to make up time down the track to the sixth best downtime of 54.06 seconds. She was 0.23 seconds from third going into the second heat. Graybill started in 5.06 seconds in run two and posted a nearly identical downtime of 54.03 seconds for a total of 1:48.09 to tie Russian Yulia Kanakina. Austria’s Janine Flock, who is a two-time Olympian and 2016 World Championship silver medalist, squeaked 0.02 seconds ahead of Graybill, moving the American and Russian into seventh.

Team Germany is in position to sweep the medals. Tina Hermann was dominant, smashing the track record in the first heat by 0.51 seconds with a time of 53.17 seconds. The former record was set nine years ago by British athlete Amy Williams at the 2010 Vancouver Games. Hermann leads the field by 0.35 seconds with a total time of 1:46.65. Jacqueline Loelling is currently in second with a combined time of 1:47.00, while Sophia Griebel is third with a two-run total of 1:47.47. 

USA’s Wesenberg clocked the eighth best time of 54.09 seconds in the first heat, but she fell back three spots after struggling to dial in the bottom portion of the track in run two. Her second run was 0.25 seconds slower than her first. Wesenberg enters Friday’s final heats in 11th with a total time of 1:48.43.

Henry raced the Intercontinental Cup tour this season and was named to the World Championship team when the U.S. earned a third spot. She injured her foot during training last week, but still managed to power her sled off the start in 4.98 seconds for the 19th best time of 54.82 seconds in the first heat. Henry bettered her start to 4.91 in run two, and improved her downtime by over half a second with a run of 54.29 seconds. The first lieutenant in the U.S. Army Reserves moved up one spot with a total time of 1:49.11 to wrap up day one in 18th.

World Championships continue Friday with the final two heats of the men’s skeleton race at 9 a.m. local time, followed by the final women’s skeleton runs at 12:30 p.m. The opening heats of the four-man bobsled race will begin at 5 p.m.