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Posted: Oct 16, 3:02p ET | Updated: Feb 13, 4:55p ET

New faces have big day at U.S. sliding trials

Bremerton, Wash. native Bree Schaaf won the second of four women's bobsled national team trials races in Lake Placid, N.Y.
Bremerton, Wash. native Bree Schaaf won the second of four women's bobsled national team trials races in Lake Placid, N.Y.

LAKE PLACID, N.Y. (AP) -- Bree Schaaf only picked up bobsledding three years ago. John Daly had never scored such a big win against elite-level racers. John Napier is merely 22 years old.

They might not be up-and-coming anymore. On Thursday, that trio of U.S. sliders may have finally arrived.

Schaaf won the second of four women's bobsled national team trials races, Daly finished atop the men's skeleton standings for the day and Napier might have had the most significant result of his young career as a four-man bobsled driver - each putting themselves into position to secure spots on the U.S. World Cup team and have the inside track at berths in the Vancouver Olympics.

It was a day filled with surprises at chilly Mt. Van Hoevenberg, where Day 1 of the national team trials was dominated by veterans. On Day 2, the tables started to turn.

"It's a huge deal," Schaaf said. "I woke up this morning, ready to rock. I daydream constantly about the Olympics. It's been the driving force for this season, the driving force for a while now. I cannot wait until February, and I feel like everything is coming together for that purpose."

Schaaf was a skeleton racer until 2007, then persuaded coaches to give her a shot at driving a bobsled.

Good move.

Teaming with Michelle Rzepka, Schaaf's time of 1 minute, 54.74 seconds was the day's best by 0.22 seconds over Day 1 winners Erin Pac and Elana Meyers. There are only three sleds in the women's bobsled trials, competing for two available spots on the World Cup roster, where they'll be joined by 2006 Olympic silver-medal winning driver Shauna Rohbock.

The standings are complex, with a point system in play and skeleton racers having the chance to throw out their worst race, so nothing will really be decided until the trials end in Park City, Utah on Oct. 24. One thing is certain: Daly, who won Day 2 by 0.04 seconds over another relative surprise in Stokes Aitken, won't be throwing out his Thursday result.

"Yesterday was a downer," said Daly, who was seventh in Day 1. "Today was the bounceback. I got luckier."

Day 1 men's skeleton winner Eric Bernotas is out of the trials, excused with an injury. He'll be one of four men going to Whistler for international training in late October and, unless his strained right leg doesn't heal, will be part of the U.S. roster when World Cup racing begins next month.

Zach Lund was third in men's skeleton Thursday, still struggling with a sore hamstring.

"I've got a few days now to get better," Lund said.

Napier has had a few years to get better.

He comes from a sliding family; his mother was the race secretary Thursday, charting all the times and placings. He's been in a sled since he was 8 and is hoping his win in the four-man race -- his team was 0.16 seconds ahead of the sled piloted by veteran Todd Hays -- is the sign that big things are looming.

"It feels good," Napier said. "The experience is a plus for me, because it's only going to get better and stronger and faster. I hope that's the case. I pray that's the case."

The only part of the trials that is starting to look like a runaway is women's skeleton, where former world champion Noelle Pikus-Pace won for the second straight day, 0.17 seconds ahead of Rebecca Sorensen -- who also finished second in Day 1 competition.

Pikus-Pace set a personal-best time of 55.92 seconds in her first of two runs down the Lake Placid course Thursday. Brimming with confidence, she heads home to Utah on Friday, now a huge favorite to win the trials since Park City is her home track.

"I'm bringing some momentum to Park City," Pikus-Pace said. "I jumped off the sled on my first run and just started screaming, like I had the perfect run. It's been a long time since I had one of those. So it couldn't have been a better finish here in Placid."


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