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Cunningham collects double gold in finale

January 24, 2017
Lake Placid News

LAKE PLACID - Nick Cunningham took home double gold at Mount Van Hoevenberg and the overall North American Cup two-man title Monday as two-man and women's bobsled racing concluded for the season.

Racing with Nathan Gilsleider and Hakeem Abdul-Saboor in the seventh and eighth races of the season, respectively, Cunningham topped the field by more than a second in each race. Meanwhile Nicole Vogt and Bonnie Kilis took bronze and gold in the two women's races.

"This season started out on such a low note, my confidence was completely gone, believing in my ability to drive was completely gone," Cunningham said. "I started second guessing myself and asking myself what I was doing here. When you get bumped down a level, your mind starts to go wild. To come out through adversity, the number of snowstorms we had and the number of crews we had to use, to come out and win overall gold and gold on the home track gets the confidence up. I'm still fighting and I'm not going to give up and keep going."

In the opening men's race, Cunningham and Gilsleider's 1:52.07 combined downtime was more than a second faster than teammates Hunter Church, of Cadyville, and Nic Taylor, who took silver in 1:53.16. Canadians Taylor Austin and Darryl Matton earned bronze in 1:53.29.

The silver was Church's best finish of the season. He concludes the season ranking seventh overall on the North American Cup circuit.

"I'm much happier with how this round went versus Park City," he said. "I had a lot of sled troubles in Park City and the first half was rough as well for me. I just want to push fast and drive better in four-man, which seems to be more of my forte. I'm definitely going to make a real hard push this offseason with strength training and speed training. I'm a decent driver but need to improve on the push. I'm ready for it."

Geoff Gadbois, of Milton, Vermont, and Dillon Schrodt, the final American sled in the field, took fifth for Gadbois' best finish of the two-race series.

Vogt and Kilis led Team USA in the first women's race, taking bronze behind two Korean sleds. Yooran Kim and Minseong Kim won the race in 1:55.36, while Seonhye Lee and Miran Shin nabbed silver with a combined downtime of 1:55.72.

Katie Eberling and Veronica Clutter were Team USA's next fastest finishers, taking fifth after threading together runs of 57.97 and 58.49. Eberling ranks fifth overall on the North American Cup.

"I'm pretty hard on myself," Eberling said. "I, of course, wanted to do better, but looking at the bigger picture, the first half of the season was rough for me, so I think getting back to the state where I'm learning instead of trying to survive and feeling confident is a good point to be ending the season at."

In the penultimate two-man North American Cup race of the season, Cunningham and Abdul-Saboor blew out the competition by 1.58 seconds en route to taking the overall two-man title by 164 points. Their 1:52.92 combined downtime beat out second-place Korea's Youngjin Suk by 1.58 seconds. Brazilian Edson Bindilatti took bronze in 1:54.52.

"Nate and Hakeem, and all the other brakemen I had this year, worked really hard this season and went above and beyond," Cunningham said. "They both deserve the overall title as well. It's easy to drive with brakemen as good as these."

Church and Taylor took fifth while Gadbois and JC Cruse finished sixth, which put Gadbois in fourth overall for the season.

"This week was long and frustrating," Gadbois said. "The starts were there. Dillon and JC pushed really well, but we couldn't find the speed down the track, I don't have an answer for it. I think I have a better set up for four-man, so I'm excited about that."

Vogt and Kilis ended their season on an exciting note, jumping from fourth to first in the final heat to take gold. Their 1:57.70 combined downtime beat out Canadian Julie Johnson by .11 seconds.

"It's my first win in Lake Placid, and especially coming back from fourth feels really good," Vogt said. "My parents were here and Bonnie's family was here, so it's always fun. I really had a good exit of Shady in the second run, so really cleaned up the middle of the track, which made a big difference. Different ice conditions played a role for us as well, the ice was much softer today. We've slid on a ton of different conditions here, so that helped us."

Eberling and Clutter took seventh to conclude the season.

Four-man North American Cup racing continues this week, with races scheduled for Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. Intercontinental Cup skeleton resumes Thursday and Friday, also in Lake Placid. Meanwhile, World Cup competes this weekend in Konigssee, Germany.



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