They’ve secured the positions at the World Championships. Now all that’s left for the USA long-track speedskaters is to fill their names in the blanks.
The USA national championships coming to the Utah Olympic Oval this Friday through Sunday are about more than just winning national titles. Also on the line are berths to the World Single Distance Championships, the pinnacle of the sport in non-Olympic years, which will be held at the Oval on Feb. 13-16.
During the first four World Cups of the season, Team USA speedskaters’ results were used to determine how many athletes — up to three — can compete for their country in each discipline at the world championships. This weekend, those same athletes will try to make sure they, and not their teammates, are the benefactors of the hard work they put in this fall.
“I was able to qualify [Team USA] spots in the 500 and the 1,000 [meters]. What I need to do at U.S. championships is get those spots for myself,” fall national team member Kimi Goetz said. “They went to the country and not for me. It’s important to get through that competition injury free and race decent races in the 500 and 1,000.”
U.S. LONG TRACK CHAMPIONSHIPS
Where: Utah Olympic Oval, Kearns
Goetz will be going up against some tough competition in Brittany Bowe. Bowe, a bronze medalist in team pursuit at the 2018 Olympics in PyeongChang, is the reigning women’s 500 and 1,500 meter champion. Another 2018 Olympian, Erin Jackson, will also be on track.
Joey Mantia, the most decorated man on the USA Team, will also be in action. He already qualified himself a spot in mass start by winning that event at the World Cup in Poland last month. He said being able to train through the nationals in preparation for February’s races is more important to him right now than defending his national title in that event, though he will be aiming to retain his titles in the 1,500 and 1,000.
“It’s still important to be at the top of the game, especially for an American,” Mantia said. “But I consider it more of a trial than a national championship.”
His competition will include current World Cup team members Ethan Cepuran, Austin Kleba, Emery Lehman, Brett Perry and Ian Quinn, among others.
Junior skaters will also be on the ice, competing for spots on the junior world team.