Graybill wins U.S. National Championship, sets track record in skeleton
Savannah Graybill didn’t let the disappointment of not qualifying for the recent Sochi Games slow her down. In fact, the Cocalico
High School graduate took the opposite approach.
This past Friday at the U.S. National Skeleton Championships in Lake Placid, NY, Graybill, along with Matt Antoine on the men’s side, maintained their overnight leads with record-breaking times to claim the 2014 U.S. National Championship titles in their respective divisions.
Graybill, who is in her fourth year competing in skeleton after enjoying a stellar field hockey career at American University, established a convincing lead of 4.03 seconds over the women’s field to secure her first career title. Graybill left little doubt she would claim the title with her overnight lead of 1.57 seconds, but she laid down a blistering track record time of 55.22 seconds in Friday’s first run to erase any question on whether or not the title would be hers.
“It was really exciting,” Graybill said of her first championship Tuesday night while back home in Denver. “It just kind of pulled everything together for me at the end of the season. I had a good season and really improved everywhere I went and made a lot of progress. To be able to come home with a national championship was just kind of like icing on the cake.”
As was setting the track record at Lake Placid.
“The track crew did a fantastic job of prepping the ice,” Graybill said. “All week, the ice was amazing, and even for race day it was incredible. Before that run, which was my first run on the second day, that was the goal. I knew after watching the men that the ice was still in fantastic shape and I went to that line with the explicit goal of setting the track record. And it was just really awesome for that to be able to happen.”
In a USBSF press release, U.S. Skeleton Head Coach Tuffy Latour said, “It was another great event for USA Skeleton. We had Olympians racing with our top development athletes, so it was a great mix of experienced athletes and rookies battling it out. Both Matt and Savannah set track records, and the Olympic Regional Development Authority crew did a great job preparing the track. Overall as a coaching staff we couldn’t be happier with ending a great season on a high note.”
Graybill said it was a great way to end the season, especially coming off the disappointment of coming up short of qualifying for the Olympics. She said the U.S. had a chance to qualify a third sled for Sochi but didn’t quite get it done.
“The whole Olympic year and that whole process was very eye-opening this year to understand what goes into everything and just how that process works,” she said. “I definitely have a better understanding of that now and leading into the next (four years), performing the way I did and having such a good showing at nationals and knowing I have so much more to give, I feel really good going into the summer with where I stand and knowing that there are bigger and better things to come.”
National team member Annie O’Shea set the former track record of 55.38 seconds in 2011. Although the international federation will not recognize the record-breaking times set by Antoine and Graybill since it was not during an international competition, coach Latour is impressed with the growth his athletes have shown throughout the season.
“It’s incredible,” Latour said in the press release. “I think this is a notice to the world that we aren’t slowing down anytime soon.”
Graybill claimed her first title with a combined time of 3:42.74. Morgan Tracey (Champion, Ohio) held a slim lead for second over Samantha Culiver (Scottsdale, Ariz.) after Thursday’s first two heats, but Culiver pulled ahead Friday to claim silver with a four-run combined time of 3:46.77. Sherri Emery (New Gloucester, Maine) posted the second fastest times of the final heats to move up into third with a total time of 3:47.54, and Tracey finished fourth, just 0.04 seconds from the medals, with a combined time of 3:47.58.
“It was exciting watching everyone race and set new personal bests today,” Graybill said in the USBSF press release. “Everyone was very supportive and we had beautiful weather for our final races of the season. A big thanks goes out to the coaching staff for their help and motivation this week. Many of us made huge gains this week thanks to their help and guidance.”
With the success she has gained in the relatively short time she has been doing the sport, Graybill is optimistic for the next four years and hopes it leads to a berth in the 2018 Olympics in Pyeong Chang, South Korea.
“I’m very excited going into this next quad,” she said Tuesday. “Four years sounds daunting, but the time I started to get to this point, it has felt like it has gone by in a month. Training and planning out for that time frame seems long, but the progress that I’ve made and how good I feel about my skill set going into everything, and my preparation and knowing how much more I have to give, I feel good. I’m very excited, and Pyeong Chang is going to be here before you know it.”
As for the present, she said she’ll enjoy some time off here at home before returning to Lake Placid in May to begin preparations for next season, which begins in the fall.