Clapp-Taylor, Kraychir win US skeleton push titles

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LAKE PLACID, N.Y. (AP) Gracie Clapp-Taylor is from Florida, and Trent Kraychir hails from southern California.

Somehow, a winter sport is working for them both.

Clapp-Taylor won her second straight women's title and Kraychir won the men's crown at the U.S. national skeleton push championships on Saturday, the unofficial start to the team's season. Clapp-Taylor finished her two pushes of a wheeled sled at the team's training track in 8.13 seconds, while Kraychir won in a combined 7.38 seconds.

None of the five sliders who represented the U.S. in skeleton at the Sochi Olympics was in the competition.

''I feel stronger than ever and faster than I've ever been, and I had a better progression into push champs,'' said Clapp-Taylor, who hails from St. John's, Florida and attended college in Miami. ''I think it'll be even better going into (team) trials. Winning is a big confidence booster. It helped me a lot last year, and it was one of my goals this summer to win this so that I could have that same confidence going into trials.''

Annie O'Shea was second in 8.30 seconds and Veronica Day was third in 8.36 seconds.

Kraychir, a relative newcomer to the sport from Desert Hot Springs, California, edged Jake Miter (7.41) and Kevin McGlade (7.47) for the men's crown.

''I have been preparing since the season ended in April last year, and I've just been here training hard, running on this track, and it's paid off,'' Kraychir said. ''Really, I've just been focusing on pushing and lifting, and it's been awesome, especially staying here at the Olympic Training Center, which is an awesome asset to have. Like Gracie said, winning is definitely a huge confidence booster.''

Team trials will be held later this fall in Lake Placid and Park City, Utah. Ice is expected to be in place at the team's primary facility on Mount Van Hoevenberg by mid-October, and the World Cup season starts in Lake Placid in early December.

''The sliding season is right around the corner,'' U.S. coach Tuffy Latour said.