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Kearns • Jilleanne Rookard already has enjoyed a historic start to her speedskating season.
So it probably should not have come as any surprise that she dominated her first race of the U.S. Speedskating Championships at the Utah Olympic Oval on Thursday, even though she described it as basically just a good workout. The 27-year-old Michigan native easily won the women's 3,000 meters the distance at which she defeated the reigning Olympic gold and silver medalists for her first World Cup victory last month.
"This is a training meet for me," she said. "I'm going out there and feeling out the ice, getting feedback form my coach and preparing" for the Allround World Championships in Calgary in February.
Rookard finished in 4 minutes, 16.86 seconds, more than five seconds ahead of fellow 2010 Olympian Maria Lamb. Four-time Olympic medalist and eight-time world champion Shani Davis similarly claimed the men's 5,000 meters, beating Jonathan Kuck by nearly two seconds in 6:25.03.
"Good races today," he said. "Hope I can continue to make the progress needed to be strongest at world championships."
Davis and Rookard each also won the 500-meter races that will be factored into the allround standings sprint specialists will race a separate 500 next week while short-track skater Allison Baver of Taylorsville finished third in the women's 3,000 after making an experimental switch to long-track just 10 days ago.
"Compared to short-track, the pressure in long-track is a lot more constant during the race," the three-time Olympian said. "I felt good, but my legs were so tight after the race I could barely move."
While Davis' best events are yet to come he's the world-record holder in the 1,000 and 1,500 Rookard is working right in her wheelhouse, the distance races. She's expected to race the women's 5,000 on Friday, after spending the past year dealing with a lot.
Her mother died from cancer barely a year ago, just before Rookard raced at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. She finished eighth in the 5,000 and 12th in the 3,000 establishing herself as a potential medal contender at the 2014 Sochi Games in Russia.
Rookard only heightened her international profile last month, when she unexpectedly won her first World Cup race in Berlin.
There, she beat defending gold medalist and world-record holder Martina Sablikova of the Czech Republic and silver medalist Stephanie Beckert of Germany in the 3,000. It was the first time in nearly 31 years that an American woman had won a distance race on the World Cup circuit.
Now, she's working on reaching the podium consistently, even though training for that means, at the moment, coping with the higher altitude in Utah
Shani Davis and Jillieanne Rookard highlighted the first day of the U.S. Speedskating Championships on Thursday at the Utah Olympic Oval, winning both of their races.
While Davis won the men's 5,000 meters in 6 minutes, 25.03 seconds, Rookard won the women's 3,000 in 4:16.86. Both also won the 500 for all-rounders, Davis in 35.32 seconds and Rookard in a personal-best 39.62.
Friday, 9 a.m.-2 p.m.
• 1,500 meters*
• Women's 5,000 meters
• Men's 10,000 meters
Monday, 9 a.m.-noon
• 500 meters*
• 1,000 meters*
Tuesday, 9 a.m.-noon
• 500 meters*
• 1,000 meters*
*Men's and women's races