Bailey, Jones win prelim push titles
September 2, 2016
Ryan Bailey (Salem, Oregon) and Briauna Jones (Summerville, South Carolina) are one step closer to securing a spot on the USA Bobsled National Team after winning their respective preliminary push championship competitions on the wheeled track in Lake Placid, New York. Bailey and Jones’s wins earned them tickets to USA National Bobsled Push Championships, which will be held on the iced facility in Calgary, Canada, next month.
Athletes were given the opportunity to push the sled three times from the brake position and the best two pushes were counted. The athletes with the lowest two-run combined times were declared the winners.
BMW, a proud sponsor of USA Bobsled & Skeleton, will sponsor the top-two finishers in both the women’s and men’s competitions to offset costs inherent to participation in next month’s national competition. BMW works with the team year-round to identify opportunities to support key team efforts, including equipment improvements, athlete assistance and future innovation.
Bailey ran away with the men’s competition with a two-push combined time of 8.64 seconds. He established himself as a favorite earlier in the week by posting the best men’s combine test score, and didn’t disappoint in the competition after dominating with push times of 4.34 and 4.30 seconds.
Bailey is already well known for his accomplishments as a sprinter. He was the anchor for the 2012 London Olympic Games 4×100-meter relay team that set an American record of 37.04 seconds and finished fifth in the 100M run. Two years after London, Bailey was glued to his television watching the 2014 Sochi Olympic Games.
“I was watching the 2014 Olympics and one of the highlights was bobsled, and I thought it would be an amazing experience,” Bailey said. “I’m an adrenaline junkie, so I figured the rush of bobsled would be perfect for me.”
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The coaching staff took the rookies to Mt. Van Hoevenberg during the push camp for a track walk, which was a first look at the sport for the majority of the athletes.
“Walking down the track and through the curves, I was in awe,” Bailey said. “These things are 20 feet tall, it’s ridiculous — it’s basically vertical. I can’t imagine flying through there.”
Bailey isn’t the first Olympic sprinter to make a transition to bobsled. Lauryn Williams, the 2004 Olympic 100M silver medalist, and Lolo Jones, 2012 Olympic 100M hurdler, were push athletes at the Sochi Olympics. Tianna Bartoletta also spent some time in a bobsled, following in the footsteps of greats like Edwin Moses, Willie Davenport and Renaldo Nehemiah.
“I wanted to come here to get a feel for the sport, pick the brain of some of the athletes on the team,” Bailey said. “When I started pushing, coming out of the block was natural to me because it’s pretty similar to track. Getting in the sled, I’m going to need more work on that. It will take some time, but it’s been a great experience already.”
Dillon Schrodt (Lincoln, Nebraska) from the University of Nebraska Kearney was runner-up with a combined time of 8.96 seconds after clocking pushes of 4.47 and 4.49.
In the women’s field, Jones and Nikia Squire (Columbia, South Carolina) have been neck-and-neck since camp started, tying for the top women’s combine test score and finishing just 0.01 seconds from each other in the competition.
Jones edged Squire for the win with push times of 4.91 and 4.89 seconds for a combined total of 9.80. Squire was on Jones’ heels with times of 4.89 and 4.92 seconds for a total of 9.81.
Jones and Squire were the only two competitors to clock push times under five seconds in the women’s field. Jones was a track athlete at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, and Squire competed in track and field at Queens University of Charlotte. Both athletes were discovered at the Columbia combine event.
“My track coach, Robert Olsen, is a former bobsledder and teammate of Coach Mike Dionne, and getting me into bobsled was always a subliminal message of his,” Jones said. “He planted the seed, and here I am.”
Jones said pushing a sled was more challenging than she expected and she tried to focus on one thing at a time during the weeklong camp while learning the technique of the pushing.
“Everybody thinks, ‘Oh yeah, I can push a bobsled,'” Jones said. “Then you push a bobsled and everything changes. None of us are perfect, of course, there’s so much to learn, but the coaches and athletes from the team have been so awesome and supportive.
“Once you start running downhill with the sled, you don’t think it’s as steep as it is and then you realize how fast you’re going and you have to get into the sled- it’s challenging, but I really enjoy it.”
When asked how she felt after taking a track walk and seeing the course for the first time, Jones said, “I’m a daredevil, I’m definitely up for the challenge.”
Dierdre Duncan (Hiram, Georgia), a standout track and field graduate from Oglethorpe University, rallied for third with a total time of 10.14 seconds after clocking pushes of 5.09 and 5.05.
Six women and six men also competed in a rookie skeleton push competition. Squire topped the women’s competition with a total time of 7.89 seconds (3.97, 3.92), followed by Michelle Toukan (Central City, Nebraska) in second with a time of 8.23 seconds (4.13, 4.10), and Mystique Ro (Nokesville, Virginia) in third with a 8.47 (4.22, 4.25).
Christopher Strup (Defiance, Ohio) led the men’s competition with a total push time of 7.14 seconds (3.56, 3.58). Brad Beeston (Edmond, Oklahoma) finished second with a 7.22 (3.63, 3.59), while Jamaal Brantley (Summerville, South Carolina) clocked a 7.24 (3.65, 3.59) for third.
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