Pikus-Pace cruises to victory
Ever since she was a little girl, Noelle Pikus-Pace has known how to entertain a crowd. Put her in the middle of a group of people, her father said, and she’d have their attention in no time at all.
Never had that been so true as it was on Tuesday night at the Utah Olympic Park.
After sliding to a stop in the finish area at the end of her second Team USA selection race run, Pikus-Pace was greeted by nearly 200 fans, many of whom made the trip from Orem (Pikus-Pace’s hometown) and Eagle Mountain (where she now lives) to support their hometown hero.
Though Pikus-Pace had already secured a spot on the Team USA World Cup skeleton team because of her performance last year, staying sharp heading into the World Cup event in Calgary in a couple weeks drove her to participate in the week’s events.
Her fans couldn’t have been happier that she decided to slide, greeting her with homemade signs and raucous cheers.
"It was crazy. Holy cow," Pikus-Pace said after posing for picture after picture and talking with nearly every fan, young and old, who surrounded her at the finish area. "I’ve never seen so many people up here at the Olympic Park for an event, even a World Cup event. I’ve never had this many people up here to cheer. It’s been overwhelming and it’s been really neat to have so much support behind me."
After winning the two selection races on Monday morning, Pikus-Pace turned in another two-for-two performance on Tuesday, finishing her first run with a time of 51.24 seconds. She followed that up with a time of 51.76 seconds in her second run, good for a 1 minute, 43 second total.
Pikus-Pace’s times were good enough to beat her next closest competitor, Kimber Gabryszak of Park City, by 0.78 seconds.
"I’ve been really happy with the way I’ve been sliding," she said. "I just feel really relaxed. I feel so calm and I feel so comfortable with my sled. Everything seems to be coming together at the right time."
Being on her home track was a good way to practice in a familiar, low-pressure environment.
"Any time you can come to home ice is just a great experience," she said. "It’s fun, especially because you can have your fans and friends and family come out to support you."
But, she added, there is still room for improvement.
"I still feel like I have more to give," she said. "And I still feel I have a lot more to learn and fix and a lot more to improve upon."
For now, the 2010 Olympian, who finished just off the podium in fourth place, is trying to stay focused on the task at hand and trying not to worry about the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics.
"I’m going to go into every single race trying to improve on that track, trying to improve on that race," she said. "Right now, my motivation is Calgary. That’s what I’m looking forward to is that World Cup. Then I’ll be looking forward to the World Cup race in Park City and then in Lake Placid."
Sochi remains an event that’s on the distant horizon, as far as Pikus-Pace is concerned.
"Until I actually get to Sochi," she said, "I’m thinking about one curve at a time."
The World Cup skeleton tour will return to Park City from Dec. 2 to Dec. 7.
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Park City is the lone undefeated team in Region 10 play after a 60-30 win over Mountain View. The Miners have three more region games in their quest to repeat as region champions.