Casey Dawson, PCHS senior, makes U.S. speedskating World Cup team | ParkRecord.com

Casey Dawson, PCHS senior, makes U.S. speedskating World Cup team

After years of having the goal on his mind, Casey Dawson officially made the U.S. national speedskating World Cup team. Not the junior national team, not the national team reserve roster — the full-blown, red-white-and-blue, go-to-the-Olympics national team.

He did it.

But he isn't one for making big statements.

"It's pretty cool," the Park City High School senior said over the phone on Monday.

Dawson traveled to Milwaukee for the Fall World Cup Qualifiers and AmCup1, which started on Nov. 2.

"I just kind of thought I was going to compete there for the AmCup," Dawson said. "I didn't expect anything from the World Cup trials."

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He placed third in the 5,000, finishing in 6 minutes, 39.76 seconds – a personal best – then took eighth in the 500, ninth in the 1,000, and third in the 1,500 with a time of 1:50.68.

Overall, Dawson finished third in the qualifier, enough to secure a spot with the national team for the Dec. 14 competition in Heerenveen, Netherlands – an intense venue to begin a World Cup career.

"It's kind of the heart and soul of speed skating in the world," said Tom Cushman, U.S. Speedskating head coach for development in distance. "That's the place you want to go to race. … It's the biggest stage we have in speedskating aside from the Olympics."

Since the Netherlands first won a medal at the Winter Olympics in 1952, the country has earned 140 medals in the Winter Games and 129 of them have been in speedskating. Also, the Netherlands has 17 Olympic-size 400-meter tracks, compared with the U.S.'s two.

"I don't want to think about my competition, I just want to skate," Dawson said when asked if he was nervous. "Because there's probably going to be 30,000 people watching."

Cushman said Dawson's first foray into the World Cups was not anticipated by many, and added that the World Cup is something of a bonus for Dawson's season.

"Last year he was getting sixth, eighth, 10th, then all of a sudden to jump up to third was a big jump," he said.

To put it in perspective, Cushman said at Dawson's age and skill level, it makes sense for him to compete in the Junior World Championships for two more years.

"He'll call me on Wednesday and say 'I can't be at practice Saturday because I have to take my ACT test,'" Cushman said. "A lot of my other athletes, they are 28, 30 years old. It's just a really fun experience actually, to work with someone this age that is getting better and better almost by the month."

It's a big break for Dawson, and one he's dreamed of since he started racing eight years ago.

"I always watched big competitions like that in videos and always imagined me in the starting line with those skaters," he said.

But he said nothing has changed with his overall goal.

"I just want to skate and do well by my standards."