CALGARY, Alberta (AP) Veteran Megan Henry reclaimed the women's title at the USA Skeleton National Push Championships on Thursday, and Dakarai Kongela won the men's crown in his first appearance at the event.
Kongela, a former bobsledder, had a two-push combined time of 9.46 seconds to edge Austin Florian by 0.09 seconds. Nathan Crumpton was third, another 0.02 seconds back.
''I'm just honored to have been welcomed on to skeleton team,'' Kongela said. ''I'm obviously very excited about today, but I also know that this is a very small part of what it takes to be a good skeleton athlete.''
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Henry won the 2011 national push title and hadn't been healthy enough to compete in the event since 2013. Her combined time was 10.15 seconds, just ahead of Kristen Hurley (10.26) and Veronica Day (10.42).
''This is a big confidence boost that I really am grateful for leading into the season and to sustain momentum in last few weeks of the off season before we really get on ice,'' Henry said.
The push championships won't play a role in national team selection, which will occur after trials races in Lake Placid, New York (Oct. 23-24) and Park City, Utah (Nov. 1-2). The national team is scheduled to be announced Nov. 3.
''We had a great turnout,'' U.S. head skeleton coach Tuffy Latour said. ''I'm excited about where the team is as we head into the season. With less than 17 months until the 2018 Olympic Games, everyone is stepping up their game.''