FROM NATHAN, MARCH 25, 2015 - After successfully defending my Western Regional Skeleton title earlier this month, it was time to test equipment. The modern skeleton sled can be tuned for various ice & track conditions, and different runners (the metal rods that make contact with the ice) can be swapped in as well. Finding the right combination takes some time and patience. And in a stroke of good luck, Mother Nature decided to cooperate and give us some quick ice, which presented the opportunity to chase another goal: setting the season’s track record at Utah Olympic Park.
Back in November during National Team Trials, 2014 Olympic bronze medalist Matt Antoine set this season’s fastest time on Park City’s Olympic track with a blistering run of 49.32 seconds. During practice runs this month, a few of us had been creeping into the sub-50-second range. We thought we could give chase to Matt’s time. I’d also discovered a new setting on my sled that showed a lot of potential. It makes the sled harder to control, but early testing results were promising. Sometimes being fastest means flirting with the edge of control.
On a cool evening at Utah Olympic Park, the conditions looked good. Matt’s time was in my crosshairs. I gave the sled a good push at the start, and despite a small driving error that put me off course at the top of the track, I finished the run with a new personal best: 49.44 seconds! My second run would provide an opportunity to correct the mistake and improve on that time. While I was waiting, my teammate Austin McCrary laid down a smoking run of 49.22 seconds—a fantastic accomplishment, and the season’s track record by a tenth of a second.
On my next run, despite correcting my error at the top of the track, a mistake at the bottom dashed my chances for the day, and I had to settle for a run of 49.5 seconds.There was no way to know how well the track would hold up during the final week of sliding at Olympic Park, but there was time to give it one more shot. That Monday evening at practice, launching my sled off the top with all the late-season energy my legs could muster, and threading together a solid run through all 15 curves, I crossed the finish line and saw the time on the clock: 49.06 seconds! New personal record and the season’s track record!
Sustaining a small injury, Austin had been unable to slide that evening. And if Matt Antoine had been there, he no doubt would have risen to the challenge. But with warmer weather on the horizon, it looked as if the 2014-2015 season’s track record would remain mine.
The final day of sliding at Utah Olympic Park was the Utah Winter Games on Saturday, March 14th. A final race to close out the competitive season. Unfortunately, the ambient temperature was in the 50s F, which made for slow ice. Setting new records wouldn’t be an option, but it was still a fun race. Austin managed to slide a best of 49.5 seconds. I was close behind at 49.6, and we took Gold & Silver respectively, with Bronze going to our teammate Trent Kraychir for his runs in the mid-50s.
The Utah Winter Games wrapped up the competitive season. I couldn't be happier with my progress and the times put down.
My final two weeks on ice for this season will be spent training in Whistler, Canada, on the fastest ice on earth...