Uhlaender wins U.S. National Skeleton Championship
LAKE PLACID, N.Y. – Just three months into her skeleton career, Summit County’s Katie Uhlaender is standing on top.
The 2002 Summit High School graduate won the Women’s National Skeleton Championship on Saturday, capping an astounding first year of competition in which she won the Junior National title and placed eighth in the World Junior Championships in Germany.
“It’s been crazy to progress this fast,” Uhlaender said from Lake Placid after winning Saturday’s race. “It’s been an amazing year.”
Uhlaender was just one-hundredth of a second away from breaking the track record at Placid. That honor went to Saturday’s runner-up Rebecca Sorensen, who broke the record in her first heat. Uhlaender’s two-heat combined time beat Sorensen’s by 13 hundredths of a second. Some World Cup veterans didn’t compete in the event, including defending Olympic gold medalist Tristan Gale.
It was the final race of the season for the U.S. skeleton program (and just the fourth of Uhlaender’s career). The win puts Uhlaender on track to join the U.S. Team and the World Cup tour next season.
“She’s a great up-and-coming slider,” said U.S. skeleton program director Don Hass. “She’s one of the fastest developing athletes I’ve ever worked with.”
How good Uhlaender can get in the sport – which is a head-first version of luge – is unknown. At this early point of her career, she says, she learns something every time down the track.
“I listen to the secrets of the track, and every time I get to the bottom, I have an epiphany,” she said. “It’s the first sport I’ve ever done that pushes my physical and mental abilities to the limit.”
At SHS, Uhlaender played baseball (with the boys) and started on the softball team.
She said her experience at the World Juniors in Germany a month ago gave her the confidence to win on Saturday. In Germany, where she placed eighth, she was a bit overwhelmed. Now, carrying around the title of National Champion, she can look ahead to a limitless career.
“I’m very motivated for next year,” she said. “I’m going to take this as far as I can. My ultimate goal is the Olympics.”
The next winter Olympics are in Torino, Italy, in 2006.
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