Church sweeps with 4 golds at North American Cup

LAKE PLACID — USA Bobsled/Skeleton athletes claimed 24 medals in the 12 race series of the Lake Placid North American Cup competition that wrapped up Friday, Feb. 5 at Mount Van Hoevenberg.

U.S. athletes swept the medals in six races. The efforts were led by Cadyville’s Hunter Church, Nicole Vogt of Dallas, Texas, and Smithtown skeleton veteran John Daly, who each won their respective competitions.

In men’s bobsled, Church was victorious across the board in the two-man and four-man races. His two-man bobsled wins were the first of his career in the discipline.

“First two-man golds for me,” Church said. “It’s pretty crazy that I have never won a two-man gold, so it was super cool.”

Church teamed with Hakeem Abdul-Saboor in the first competition on Feb. 1, and with Josh Williamson the following day. Church finished 0.44 seconds ahead of the field with Abdul-Saboor for his first career two-man win, and an even more distant 0.71 seconds ahead on day two with Williamson.

“We tested sleds and it was very promising,” Church said. “Lake Placid is like riding a bike at times, but a very difficult bike. It is a track that I think I could come out and take quality trips at any point, which made it easy jumping between two different sleds.”

The U.S. men swept the podium in both two-man races. Frank Del Duca and Charlie Volker claimed silver on day one, followed by Sam Moeller and Alex Mustard in bronze medal position. Tyler Hickey , who was fourth in the first race, rallied back to earn the silver medal with Mustard on day two. Moeller teamed with Michael Fogt for bronze.

Team USA again swept the medals in the four-man bobsled competitions. Church led the way with two more gold medal performances. He teamed with Abdul Saboor, Williamson, and Volker on both days. The crew was a distant 2.13 seconds ahead of the field on Feb. 3, and 2.63 seconds ahead on Feb. 4. 

Chris Avery, Dakota Lynch and Manteo Mitchell teamed with Del Duca for silver medals in both races. Moeller and his push crew of Fogt, Anthony Rosselli and Mustard claimed double bronze medals. 

Vogt dominated the women’s monobob and two-woman bobsled races. She was victorious in the first monobob competition on Feb. 1 by 0.53 seconds, and again the following day by a larger lead of 1.29 seconds. 

“Monobob in Lake Placid is much tougher than Park City,” said Vogt, who also swept the races in the Park City, Utah event. “Without the speed at the start, weight of a brakeman in the back of the sled, and lack of pressure holding you up on the curve like Park City, it’s a much tougher transition between disciplines because the lines we have to drive are very different. It’s like being in driving school learning a new sport all over again, except this time I have driving experience to build on instead of knowing nothing.” 

Jamaican Jazmine Fenlator-Victorian claimed silver on day one, followed by her teammate Carrie Russell. American Brittany Reinbolt was fourth, and Maddy Cohen of Lake Placid finished sixth. Russell claimed silver on day two, and Reinbolt moved up to claim bronze. Cohen also gained a spot and finished fifth. 

Vogt both two-woman bobsled races, winning with Kaysha Love by 0.60 seconds on Feb. 3, and taking gold by 0.30 seconds with Colleen Fotsch later in the day. 

“I was learning on the fly since this is my first week racing monobob and two-woman back to back days,” Vogt said. “I’m really excited to see these brakeman get a chance to perform after putting in so much hard work behind the scenes. These rookies have learned so much since October, and Brittany and I are looking forward to seeing how much they’ve improved since team trials.”

Reinbolt was the second U.S. sled entered into the two-woman competitions and was runner-up in both races.

Daly was in a league of his own in the men’s skeleton competitions on the way to sweeping the two races on Feb. 4 and Feb. 5.

“The team did great as a whole,” Daly said. “Thanks to the track and IBSF for putting on a race during a pandemic, and I can only hope all the races are as successful as this one.”

Stephen Garbett of Parker, Colorado, and Alex Ivanov, of Carlisle, Massachusetts, completed the sweep of the men’s skeleton medals by finishing second and third, respectively, on both days.

In women’s skeleton, veteran Savannah Graybill and Mystique Ro claimed gold medals for Team USA. Graybill was victorious on Thursday, Feb. 4 and Ro took the win the next day.

“It was such a fun, albeit quick, week back in Lake Placid,” Graybill said. “The team dynamic was a lot of fun and it’s always fun to come back and race on my home track.

“This whole season has been a learning experience and I’m pleased with the takeaways I’ve collected from today. I’m also so proud of my fellow Team USA athletes who raced so well this week.”

The North American Cup will make it third and final stop in Whistler, Canada from March 1-15. U.S. athletes are in position to win the overall title in all disciplines.