Well! It has been an incredibly busy and stressful couple of weeks! While I don’t know if this is normal, having only been through one previous, the US Skeleton Team Trials experience this time around was something to behold! It was certainly an exciting event to be a part of!
Before I get into that, I am honored to be able to say that I was the recipient of the 2012 Randy Price Memorial Award! It is an “annual sportsmanship awards to aspiring Olympic athletes in the sport of skeleton in memory of Randy Price. The Randy Price Memorial Fund was established in 2004 as a 501c3 tax exempt organization by the Price family to recognize Randy’s involvement with the skeleton community and to provide a means of helping other aspiring skeleton athletes achieve their dreams.” I am so pleased and humbled to be recognized for this award! It is hard to explain how wonderful it feels to be recognized for my hard work and my love for skeleton!
So…onto the details of Team Trials!
I earned my spot in the 2012-2013 Team Trials in March with my podium finish at the 8th America’s Cup race in Lake Placid.
As you might know if you’ve been following my blog, I had a pretty abysmal Team Trials last season, finishing 16 of 16 women. Needless to say, I was ready for redemption this time around.
Trials this year consisted of four two-heat races, two in Lake Placid, and two in Park City, UT. Luckily, our weather held up in Lake Placid so we had fairly good ice leading up to the race, give or take a few warm days.
The races in Lake Placid weren’t my best, but there were some good things that came out of it. I finished 7th and 6th in races 1 and 2 respectively, with some strong starts. I had a lot to improve on in Lake Placid, but luckily, being my home track, I’ll have plenty more opportunity!
The day following our 2nd race in Lake Placid, the team rose bright and early for a pre-dawn patrol departure to Park City, Utah. A 4am departure is never high on anyone’s list, but to be traveling with teammates is pretty fantastic.
As you can see from the tired faces, it had been a long night of packing and preparing our sleds for the cross-country journey. Despite the early hour and large number of athletes, we managed to fit our 20 sleds into a 15 passenger van, and then squeeze all the athletes onto the bus/coach’s car.
I didn’t want to jinx anything during the day, but after arriving in Park City around 1430 MT, I was surprised to say that it had been the smoothest travel day I had ever experienced. Thanks to the patient crew at the Southwest Airlines ticket counter, everyone made it to the flight on time. After watching our sleds and runner bags be loaded (mostly carefully), we boarded the plane…where we then sat for an additional 45 minutes, told that the plane was too heavy. The passengers around us were all very interested in the whispers and giggles coming from the skeleton athletes, for we all knew why the plane was too heavy: 20 sled bags weighing 90-100lbs each would do the trick.
Finally, after a quick stop at Baltimore-Washington Int’l (and another quick conference from the flight crew (see below) we were on our way to Salt Lake City!
The flight was smooth and passed fairly quickly for me, with the help of my new travel buddy: my iPad! Let me tell you, after 3+ years of not having a computer, this thing is a godsend! It’s perfect for me: I don’t do a lot of programing (ok, I don’t do ANY programing) and don’t do a lot of video editing (though that might change if I ever decide to make a skeleton video). I primarily use technology for social media, watching movies and updating my blog. So thanks to the input of my brother Andrew and my teammate, Kyle (an Apple enthusiast) I can now stay in touch with everyone! And it’s super light AND I didn’t have to take it out of my carry-on to put it through the metal detector! That’s a win in itself!
I have been staying in a very nice condo just at the base of the Utah Olympic Park, sharing it with three teammates. It’s nice to sleep in a real bed and have a kitchen to use! I took advantage of the grill as well, and have made chicken kabobs and hamburgers for my housemates. I’m excited to use recipes my mom sent me as well! I also have my own room, which hopefully is a relief to teammates, who have told me that I have been suffering from some pretty intense nightmares of late, waking up yelling or screaming…overly chatty I suppose! It’s tough because I have no idea when I do it so I can’t tell if it’s getting better!
The sliding experience here in Park City has been bittersweet. I had a wonderful time here in January, where I slid for two and a half weeks quite successfully, so was looking forward to picking up where I left off. As the case has been before, that didn’t happen. I struggled through most of the training with a crucial steer in Curve 6 (the exit of which holds the speed trap, catching an athlete’s top speed) so wasn’t having the downtimes I wanted.
Thanks to my coach, Becca, and a couple teammates, in particular Noelle, Kimber, and Pat Calder, I finally hit the correct steer in 6 on both race days! I was thrilled with that! But then, of course, once one mistake is corrected, the new mistakes snowball lower. So, despite hitting the speed in 6, the lower portion of the track (particularly curves 11-14) held a lot of new errors. I wasn’t able to correct them before our racing ended, but I am happy that I managed to have the steers in 6.
I ended up finishing 9th and 10th in race #3 and #4 respectively, and ended Team Trials 8th overall. Compared to last year’s 16th place finish…well, I’m happy!
Something I was very happy with here in Park City were my pushes. I worked incredibly hard this summer on improving my start, where I have been strong. My personal record in Park City before team trials was a 5.26 second start. The start here in Utah differs from Lake Placid greatly in that it’s a shorter distance to the crest of the start, and a shorter distance overall, so you can really push your speed sooner. It’s a faster overall start time for all athletes.
I had many good starts here, and on my first race day, I set a personal start record (5.15) by almost a tenth of a second, which, in a 40m start, is absolutely huge! I was pretty consistent on my start, with my second run start time being 5.17. I finished the Park City race series with three starts in the 5.1s and one at 5.20.
After a very stressful and long night following the final race, the National Team was named. With such a deep field this year, there were only four women’s sled spots available. But I was named to represent the United States as one of the members of the North America’s Cup racing series (formerly the America’s Cup)! Because of the depth of our program, I will be splitting races with a few other athletes.
Right now, I’m slated to race in Calgary, Canada on November 15, and have the great opportunity to race all three of the races taking place in Whistler, British Columbia in early December! There is always the opportunity to move up to another circuit or be put in other races, but for now, I am going to do the best that I can and work towards my pre-season goal of podium finishes.
For now, I am staying in Park City for another week to help my teammates in the first America’s Cup races. I’ll help out as best I can to make it easier on them: being a sled dog, filming specific curves and just generally helping them out. I’ll be leaving for Canada on the 9th!
Because of all the expenses for this trip, I am asking again for any financial help I can get! There are a few different places to go if you’d like to make a financial contribution! Right now, one reliable option is to make a tax-deductible donation through the USBSF Athlete Training Fund. Be sure to specify that the donation is for Lauren Salter!
Any help is welcome! I definitely can’t do it all alone!
A HUGE thanks to my coach, Mo Sataara, who has built me up through the summer to lead me to a 2nd place finish at Push Championships and now to be on a circuit! I am so fortunate to have him helping me in my quest for the Olympic Games!
Also, thanks so much to all who have contributed financially and in other ways! Like I said, I can’t do this alone! All of you who are following, I owe you a huge thank you! Keep checking in for updates! I promise they will be more often now that the season has finally started!
In the words of Mr Walt Disney: “Keep moving forward!”
Cheers and go USA!!