U.S. sliders claim five North American Cup medals

LAKE PLACID – The U.S. team claimed five medals and 13 top-six finishes on the third stop of the North American Cup at Mount Van Hoevenberg on Wednesday and Thursday.

Athletes in four disciplines – women’s and men’s skeleton, men’s two and four-man bobsled – raced over the two days. The women’s bobsled event did not have enough entrants to hold a competition.

Gracie Clapp and Austin McCrary earned their first career victories. Clapp, a Florida native, won the women’s skeleton race by 0.34 seconds with a total time of 1:52.61. McCray slid a two-run total of 1:49.96 to lead the men’s field by 0.19 seconds to secure his first win. All eight U.S. athletes entered into the skeleton competitors finished in the top six.

“I felt the pressure of racing on my home track, but I used it as motivation and was able to slide in the moment,” Clapp said. “I just focused on giving big pushes and trusting my driving, and I ended up breaking my push and down time records. It was the best feeling to win at home and to hear the national anthem played.”

Megan Henry of Roxbury, Conn. and Mike Rogals of Orwell, Vt. secured bronze in the women’s and men’s races, respectively. Henry posted a combined time of 1:53.81, while Rogals clocked a total of 1:50.20 for medal position.

Canadian Elisabeth Vathje denied a U.S. sweep of the women’s medals by posting an aggregate time of 1:52.95 for second place. Veronica Day finished fourth in 1:54.08, and Kellie Delka was fifth with a 1:54.40.

Shinsuke Tayama from Japan slid across the finish line in 1:50.15 for second in the men’s race. Greg West finished just outside the medals in fourth (1:50.32), and Kyle Brown posted a two-run total of 1:51.02 for sixth.

Codie Bascue of Whitehall teamed with Thomas White, Nate Weber and Michael McMarty for a gold medal performance in this morning’s four-man bobsled race. The crew finished 0.64 seconds ahead of the field with a combined time of 1:57.82.

“I will never get over the feeling I get from hearing our national anthem play at my home track with my team on the podium,” Bascue said. “Team USA did an amazing job today having all three sleds in the top six, especially with such a competitive and tough field. All in all it has been a great week and a great first half for myself, my team and Team USA as a whole, and I can’t wait to see what the second half of the season brings.”

The Japanese crew of Hiroshi Suzuki, Toshiki Kuroiwa, Shintaro Sato and Hisashi Miyazaki was runner-up with a total time of 1:58.46. Australians Heath Spence, Gareth Nichols, Duncan Harvey and Lucas Mata crossed the finish in 1:58.67 to secure third.

Jay Noller, Jesse Beckom, Nic Taylor and Dakarai Kongela were a mere 0.04 seconds from bronze. The USA crew finished fourth with a total time of 1:58.70. The third USA team entered into the four-man competition, driven by Colin Coughlin of Fishkill and pushed by Cadyville’s Hunter Church, Dallas Irvin and David Cremin, finished sixth in 1:58.98.

Noller and Kongela were the top U.S. team in the two-man competition with a fifth place finish (1:53.59). Donghyun Kim and Junglin Jun from Korea were victorious in 1:52.92. Patrice Servelle and Sebastien Gattuso from Monaco were second (1:53.04), while Susuki and Miyazaki were third (1:53.30).

Bascue and Weber struggled and finished sixth (1:53.60), but the unsatisfactory result fueled the crew to victory in the four-man event. Jake Peterson and Caleb Pelger were just 0.01 seconds from their teammates in seventh.

The North American Cup will conclude in Lake Placid with the fourth and final event from Jan. 8-12. Team USA has captured 24 medals on the tour to date, and several U.S. athletes are in the running for the overall title.