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Daly runs away with North American Cup gold

January 23, 2017
Lake Placid News

LAKE PLACID - John Daly, of Smithtown, New York, took silver in the opening men's North American Cup race at Mount Van Hoevenberg then ran away with gold in Friday's second race.

Gracie Clapp-Taylor, of Saint Johns, Florida, took bronze in the first women's race Thursday to lead Team USA in a successful two-race series.

Daly, who said he struggled in his first three heats, found his rhythm in the fourth and final heat to blow out the competition by .77 seconds in the second race.

Article Photos

John Daly, of Smithtown, begins his run during the first heat of Friday’s North?American Cup race at Mount Van Hoevenberg in Lake Placid.
(Photo — Jason Hicks-Moriarty)

"I guess it was kind of wiping the rust off here," he said. "I didn't feel like myself until the last run. It might've been the jet lag from St. Moritz and all the traveling I've been doing. Not to take anything away from the other guys, they slid well, I wasn't sliding to my potential until that last run. I hope to carry that momentum into the rest of the season."

In the first race though, Daly posted the fastest run in the first heat, but mustered only the fourth-fastest run of the second run to fall out of gold medal position. Russia's Pavel Kulikov edged the 2014 Olympian by .15 seconds, finishing in 1:50.64, while Great Britain's Jeremy Rice earned bronze in 1:50.89.

Kyle Brown (Concord, New Hampshire) was the next-fastest American slider, finishing tied for ninth, while Allen Blackwell (Jackson, Mississippi) took 15th and Andrew Blaser (Meridian, Idaho) finished in 24th after a tough first heat. Blackwell sits fourth overall on the 2016-2017 North American Cup tour rankings, while Blaser is eighth.

Clapp-Taylor posted the third-fastest downtime of the first heat, and held onto the bronze medal in her first race of the week, recording a 1:54.35 combined downtime, behind just Donna Creighton of Britain, who finished in 1:53.92 and Korean Rayoung Mun, who took silver in 1:53.96.

For Clapp-Taylor, who slid through an arm injury suffered earlier in the season, the medal was both validating and frustrating. She finishes the season ranked third on the North American Cup tour.

"It's bittersweet," she said. "I'm very happy with third, it was a tight race with awesome, awesome competition. Of course though, I always want to win on my home track. I wasn't so happy with my consistency, so I think I just need to have fun again and just let the sled run."

Veronica Day (Vienna, Virginia) was right on Clapp-Taylor's heels in fourth place, just .17 seconds behind her teammate.

"It's always nice racing on home ice, but my result on Thursday certainly left something to be desired," Day said. "I was pretty frustrated with my mistakes on the first run, but was happy to have cleaned it up and move up a couple spots on the second."

Meanwhile, Morgan Tracey (Champion, Ohio) and Leslie Stratton (Bedford, New Hampshire) finished 10-11 for Team USA.

Tracey's top-10 finish was her fourth of the season, and she said it felt especially good after a crash in training earlier in the week.

"I'm not happy with the results, but given the issues I had last week, I'm happy," she said. "This is the first time I've had a full season of races, so it's hard to get the confidence. I really want to keep working on that."

In the second men's race, Daly threw down the fastest downtime of each heat to top second-place Kulikov, who finished in 1:49.33, by more than three-quarters of a second. Italy's Joseph Luke Cecchini missed silver by .07 seconds, earning bronze in 1:49.40.

Brown looked to be in medal position as well, posting the third-fastest downtime of the first heat, but injured his hamstring in the second run, which dropped him back to ninth. Blackwell and Blaser finished 12th and 16th, respectively.

Blaser, who responded well after the tough first race, popped a groove on his second run and still set a personal record.

"I'm feeling really good," he said. "It's a really deep field and it's still a fairly new track to me. Just staying calm through adversity was really good for me in terms of progressing on this track. I'm really happy to put down two good runs on this track in succession."

Clapp-Taylor took fourth in the second women's race, missing a medal by .21 seconds, while Mun (1:51.38), Creighton (1:52.02) and Russia's Olga Potylitsina (1:52.66) topped the podium.

Tracey, who ends the season ranked sixth overall on the North American tour, once again finished in the top-10, taking ninth, while a tough second run dropped the 10th-ranked Stratton back from seventh to 12th.

"My first run was really good," Stratton said. "I feel like I'm dialing in this track way more than I ever have before and I feel confident in it. My second run left a lot to be desired, I did something in the Highway that I've never done before, but I'm a second year slider and I know consistency will come."

In her first race of the week, Megan Dovell (Duluth, Georgia), splitting the races with Day, took 16th. She concludes the season ranked 12th overall on the tour.

"I feel great," she said. "In my first run, I had a personal best downtime with my newest sled and on my second run I had a personal best push. Obviously I would've liked to have done better overall, but I'm learning and having a good time. I want to come back to Placid since it's my weakest home track and dial in some things and get ready for team trials next year."

North American Cup bobsled began Friday as well, with two-man and women's bobsled each racing. They will continue on Monday, with four-man next week as well.



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