Kristina Groves & Brittany Schussler top skaters at Continental Qualifiers in Utah

2006 Olympic medalist Kristina Groves (Ottawa, ON) won both the ladies’ 500m and 3000m at today’s Continental Qualifiers held at the Utah Olympic Oval in Salt Lake City. Canadian teammate Brittany Schussler (Winnipeg, MB) offered the second best performance in the ladies’ 500m with a time of 39.79 seconds.

“It’s a tough competition to have right after the National Championship”, commented Kristina Groves after her races. “In the 500m, I had a solid race. I was concentrating on technical things like keeping my shoulders down. In the 3000m, I focused on building speed on turns. I see this weekend as preparation and practice for the World Sprint Championships.”

Still in the ladies’ 500m, Justine L’Heureux (St-Tite, QC) came in 4th, less then three tenth of a second behind American skater Kelly Gunther who took third place. Kirsti Lay (Medicine Hat, AB) finished 8th with a time of 41.35 seconds while Nicole Garrido (Edmonton, AB) finished in 11th place.

In the ladies’ 3000m, Kristina Groves raced to the top of the podium again with a time of 4:10.06. Brittany Schussler ranked in third for her second top three finish of the day. Nicole Garrido finished 4th, skating the distance in 4:18.39. Teammates Kirsti Lay and Justine L’Heureux took 6th and 9th place respectively.

Competition was fierce on the men’s side. In the 500m, Steven Elm (Red Deer, AB) finished 4th, less than 0.3 seconds behind the leader, American Brian Hansen. Jeff Kitura (Langley, BC) came in 6th while Lucas Makowsky (Regina, SK) tied for 7th place with American skater Jonathan Kuck. Jay Morrison (Fort St. John, BC) and Mathieu Giroux (Montreal, QC) finished 9th and 10th with times of 37.23 seconds and 37.60 seconds respectively. Peter Martel (Calgary, AB) ranked 11th.

In the 5000m, Lucas Makowsky finished 4th, missing the podium by 0.8 of a second. Jay Morrison came in 5th, while teammate Steven Elm was 6th and Mathieu Giroux took 7th place. Jeff Kitura ended in 10th place. Peter Martel was disqualified.

“Races were solid. Mathieu Giroux and Jay Morrison both skated for personal best times today. Considering that the ice was not as fast as we expected, Canadian skaters had very good performances,” said National Team Coach Marcel Lacroix.

The men will race the 1500m and the 10000m tomorrow while the women skate the 1500m and the 5000m.