Noelle Pikus-Pace entered the U.S. skeleton team trials knowing she had a spot on the national roster this season. That hasn't convinced her to take these largely ceremonial runs lightly in any way.
By a huge margin for sliding, nearly a full second, Pikus-Pace prevailed again in Monday's third race of the women's trials at Park City, Utah, and continued building momentum for her final competitive season, one that she hopes brings an Olympic medal at the Sochi Games in February.
She's 3-for-3 in the series, winning by a combined 2.68 seconds.
"I chose to race in these races because any opportunity to compete is just an opportunity to make myself a better athlete," Pikus-Pace said. "I want to go into the season the best that I can be and ready to take on the world. So that's what I'm looking forward to doing."
In the men's side of the trials, Matt Antoine can start packing his bags for the World Cup tour again.
While the team won't be officially selected until Wednesday, Antoine is 3-for-3 in the series as well, holding off a strong late challenge from John Daly to prevail once again. Antoine's two-run time was 1 minute, 39.53 seconds, topping Daly (1:39.77) and Brad Stewart (1:40.03).
Antoine said he wanted to come out sharply this season. So far, so good.
"I'm in a position where I need to be performing at my best at the beginning of the season," Antoine said. "It's the Olympic season, and everyone wants to earn a spot on the World Cup team. I've had tunnel vision since the season started, focused not only on making the team, but ultimately making sure I am ready to go when tour starts."
Pikus-Pace had a two-run time of 1:41.29 in the women's race. Annie O'Shea (1:42.26) was second and Kimber Gabryszak (1:42.6) was third. They were the only two sliders within 1.7 seconds of the time posted by Pikus-Pace, a former world champion and who figures to be one of the top contenders for gold at the Sochi Olympics.
"This competition was pretty impressive," U.S. skeleton coach Tuffy Latour said. "Our rookies are giving the veterans a run for their money, and the talent and depth of this team just keeps getting better and better. I am very excited to be coaching these young athletes."
The trials end Tuesday. Pikus-Pace, Daly and Katie Uhlaender (who is not competing in the trials) have byes onto the national team already.
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