Speedskaters fall just short of making national team

Brice Burge

The USOEC women’s speedskating team competed at the U.S. Junior Championships on Jan 21-23 in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., with three athletes finishing in the top 10. Unfortunately, none of the athletes were able to finish in the top four, which would give them a spot on the US national team.

Freshman Sarah Burg of Alpena, Mich. was the closest of the USOEC athletes, as she finished in fifth place overall. Berg was in fourth place by seven points before the final event, but fell while trying to pass another competitor. The fall doomed her to the fifth position, one spot off the national team.

“Going into the last race, I knew I had to stay in front of one girl and it made me nervous, because we were in a battle for that last position,” Burg said. “I tried to have a good mental game, but I screwed up mentally and made a mistake I shouldn’t have. It was pretty heartbreaking.”

The championships were broken down into four events: a 1500-meter, 500-meter, 1000-meter and a second 1500-meter race, with points awarded for each competitor’s performance, similar to a decathlon in track and field. Each event came with different heats to work out a winner and establish the points system.

However, to narrow down the field to 16 competitors, a five-lap and nine-lap time trial was administered first. The trials were also given points to add to the overall scores.

“It was a more stressful meet because of the time trials,” said Alaina Fiorenza, a USOEC athlete who finished sixth overall in the event. “There were about 25 athletes there, so you had to do your best right away.”

Alexis Burkholder was the overall winner with 3835 points, while the hometown favorite, Katy Ralston of Saratoga Springs, finished in second with 3720. Third was Rachel Stewart with 3573 before a big points gap to Kendal Pumphrey, who grabbed the final qualifying spot with 2586 points. Burg finished with 2167 points for fifth place, who finished 577 points ahead of Fiorenza.

April Albanese, the last USOEC athlete finished in 10th place with 694 points. Albanese was coming off a recent injury, so to finish that high was a great accomplishment.

The next races for the speedskaters will be the third of five events in the America Cup Series, held at the Midland Civic Arena in Midland, Mich. on Feb. 11-13.