"Our program is growing and some of the newer athletes are already competitive with some of the fastest athletes in the nation," said Tuffy Latour, skeleton head coach.
|Luke Schulz's winning push|
Schulz claimed his first skeleton push title by 0.15 seconds after clocking a total time of 9.72 seconds. Schulz, who is entering his fifth season, pushed identical runs of 4.86 seconds to post the fastest times of each heat.
"I didn't allow anything to disrupt my concentration," Schulz said. "I've had trouble putting together two consistent runs throughout my career, and this was the first time I was able to do that. My mentality changed from a timed performance to just trusting the process and competing at my best. I'm looking forward to applying that on ice."
John Daly was the runner up with a two-push total of 9.87 seconds. The 2010 Olympian clocked heats of 4.90 and 4.97 to finish just 0.07 seconds ahead of Mike Delleman, who finished third with a combined time of 9.94 seconds.
Henry started only her second season in the sport by winning the women's skeleton push title with a convincing lead of 0.28 seconds.
"Push championships definitely brings you back into the sliding mentality," Henry said. "Summer is ending and it was really cold here this week, so it's a wakeup call that the skeleton season is approaching. Even though this competition doesn't determine selection for skeleton, I think it's still important to get the competitive edge back after a long off-season. I'm so excited."
Henry posted the fastest times of the competition, 5.40 and 5.43 seconds, to take the lead with a two-push total of 10.83. Megan Sullivan pushed start times of 5.54 and 5.57 seconds for a total of 11.11 to finish second, and Caitlin Carter came from behind after the first heat to claim the third spot with a combined push time of 11.25 seconds.
|Steve Langton's winning push|
Langton won his third bobsled national push title by 0.11 seconds. The reigning world push champion clocked a time of 4.61 seconds from the brakeman position and 4.66 seconds from the side for a total time of 9.27 seconds.
"It definitely feels good to start the season with a win," Langton said. "I worked really hard this summer and this was the first opportunity to see where I stacked up against the best in the country."
Langton's USA I teammate Curt Tomasevicz pushed his way into second place with a combined time of 9.38 seconds after pushing 4.66 from the brakes and 4.72 from the side. The fourth member of USA I, Justin Olsen, posted a respectable sixth place just one week after returning from Army basic training.
"Our sled is definitely going to be a force to be reckoned with this year," Langton said. "World championships are back in Lake Placid this February, and our goal is to win double gold. Push championships is the first time to see where everyone is at physically, and I think our goal is doable as long as we do what we're capable of doing."
Chuck Berkeley returned to competition for the first time today since competing in the 2010 Olympic Winter Games to finish third with a total of 9.40 seconds.
Steven Holcomb has already made a statement about his status as driver of USA I after claiming the men's bobsled pilot title by 0.18 seconds. Holcomb pushed identical start times of 4.69 seconds for a combined total of 9.38 seconds.
"It's nice to be training hard again," Holcomb said. "I've been living here this summer at the Olympic Training Center getting back into the swing of things. It definitely feels good to start the year off with a push title."
Holcomb ended a 50-year U.S. streak without a four-man world championship gold in 2009 and claimed the first four-man bobsled Olympic gold medal for the country in 62 years at the 2010 Olympic Winter Games. The veteran is seeking his second world title this February.
"Our team is looking good," Holcomb said. "We're motivated and ready to bring back the world title to the U.S. this year. We're ready."
Cory Butner and Jay Noller rounded out the top three standings in the men's pilot division. Butner claimed silver with a combined time of 9.56 seconds after clocking 4.80 and 4.76, while Noller posted total time of 9.82 seconds for third place.
Rookie athlete Katie Eberling was the surprise winner in the women's bobsled push championships. Eberling, 23, led a field of 15 women by 0.24 seconds to claim her first-ever title of what she hopes will be many.
"I decided to come here to give it a shot and to see how it felt," Eberling said. "I still have a lot to learn, but I'm going to keep pursuing it and hope to gain a lot over this year."
Amped up after posting the fastest start time in the first heat, 5.22, Eberling bettered her time and clocked a 5.19 in the final run to claim the title with a total of 10.41 seconds.
"I don't know many people that are lucky enough to have the opportunity to be in this environment, so I feel fortunate and excited," Eberling said. "Working and training with elite athletes is something you dream about when you're little, so I couldn't pass up the opportunity. I'm in a transition phase now after graduating, so this was good timing."
Seasoned veteran Emily Azevedo clocked a total time of 10.65 seconds to finish second after pushing two heats of 5.32 and 5.33, and second-year athlete Kristi Koplin finished third with a two-push total of 10.66 seconds.
Elana Meyers claimed her fourth consecutive bobsled push championship title today after winning the women's pilot division by 0.29 seconds.
"That felt pretty good," Meyers said. "I'm excited about the great start to the season. I still have some things to work on, and I plan on getting faster."
Meyers moved into the driver's seat after winning the 2010 Olympic bonze medal as a brakeman for pilot Erin Pac. Meyers was touted as one of the fastest push athletes in the world, and she's made a smooth transition to becoming one of the fastest pilots in the nation.
"I'm still making improvements each year," Meyers said. "One of my strengths as a brakeman was coming off the block, and it's a different technique pushing as a driver. I'm still making gains and plan on getting even faster."
Jazmine Fenlator finished second with a total of 10.56 after posting times of 5.31 and 5.25, and Bree Schaaf claimed bronze after clocking a cumulative push time of 10.79 seconds.
Full results for the 2011 U.S. National Push Championships can be viewed here.