Garcia and Gray claim U.S. Junior Short Track Titles

CLEVELAND HEIGHTS, Ohio, December 22, 2002-Maria Garcia (Carson, Calif.) and Derek Gray (Muskegon, Mich.) claimed the ladies' and men's U.S. Junior Short Track Championships this weekend.

Garcia won her third straight junior title by winning Saturday's 1500-meters and on Sunday capturing the 500-meters and 1500-meter superfinal. Garcia accumulated 3,411.0 points en route to her title.

Gray earned his first junior title by winning Saturday's 1000-meter time trial and 1500-meter competition. On Sunday, Gray claimed the 1000-meters and 1500-meter superfinal. Gray finished with 3,831.5 points.

"Derek Gray's nagging injuries clearly seem to be behind him," U.S. National Short Track Coach Stephen Gough said. "Now that he is skating up to his potential, his confidence seems to grow every race. Maria Garcia also has been struggling with injuries. She has worked hard to rehabilitate and had an excellent competition. We are sending terrific athletes to represent the U.S. at the Junior World Championships in Budapest."

World Junior Short Track Championships are January 10-12, 2003 in Budapest, Hungary. 

The top four skaters in the final standings qualified for the World Junior Short Track team. Joining Garcia on the ladies' team is Kira Fling (Winnetka, Ill.) who finished second with 2,467.5 points while Lezleigh Jaworski (Long Beach, Calif.) placed third with 1,768.5 points. Alice Kim (Reseda, Calif.) finished fourth with 1,614.0 points.

Fling, Jaworski, and Garcia were all members of last year's World Junior Short Track squad.

The men's team will also feature three members from last year's World Junior team. J.P. Kepka (St. Louis), who finished second with 2,251.5 points, Alex Izykowski (Bay City, Mich.), who placed third place with 2,135.0 points, and fourth-place Misi Toth (St. Louis) were on last year's team.

U.S. Speedskating Short Track Program Coordinator Jack Mortell was pleased with the depth each team has.

"U.S. speedskaters have a strong tradition of medaling at the Junior Worlds," Mortell said. The juniors at this competition will have strong representation on the 2006 and 2010 Olympic teams. The exciting part is that this is an extremely deep team, most likely the best team we have sent to the Junior Worlds."

U.S. Speedskating Assistant National Short Track Coach Scott Koons echoed Mortell's sentiments on the team's chances.

"I am excited to be taking such a talented and hardworking team to the Junior Worlds," Koons said. "We look forward to some great results."

Saturday's Results

Ladies' 1000-meter Time Trial-1, Kira Fling, Winnetka, Ill., 1 minute 38.970 seconds. 2, Maria Garcia, Carson, Calif., 1:39.380. 3, Kristin Bedford, Midland, Mich., 1:40.010. 

Ladies' 1500-meter Final-1, Garcia, 2 minutes 38.470 seconds. 2, Alice Kim, Reseda, Calif., 2:39.210. 3, Fling, 2:39.630. 

Men's 1000-meter Time Trial-1, Derek Gray, Muskegon, Mich., 1:30.967. 2, Alex Izykowski, Bay City, Mich., 1:31.147. 3, J.P. Kepka, St. Louis, 1:31.319.

Men's 1500-meter Final-1, Gray, 2:35.260. 2, Izykowski, 2:35.290. 3, Kepka, 2:36.290. 

Sunday's Results

Ladies' 500-meter Final-1, Garcia, 47.669 seconds. 2, Fling, 47.896. 3, Lezleigh Jaworski, Long Beach, Calif., 48.049. 

Ladies' 1000-meter Final-1, Jaworski, 1 minute 52.292 seconds. 2, Kim, 1:52.442. 3, Fling, 1:52.882. 

Ladies' 1500-meter Superfinal-1, Garcia, 2 minutes 53.920 seconds. 2, Fling, 2:54.640. 3, Jaworski, 2:54.700.

Ladies' Final Overall Standings-1, Garcia, 3411.0 points. 2. Fling, 2467.5. 3, Jaworski, 1768.5. 4, Kim, 1614.0.

Note: Top four skaters comprise the Jr. World team. Competing in Budapest, Hungary. Jan 10-12.

Men's 500-meter Final-1, Kepka, 43.640 2, Misi Toth, St. Louis, 43.880. 3, Izykowski, 44.580. 

Men's 1000-meter Final-1, Gray, 1:34.362. 2, Izykowski, 1:34.596. 3, Toth, 1:34.775.

Men's 1500-meter Superfinal-1, Gray, 2:23.110. 2, Izykowski, 2:26.530. 3, Toth, 2:28.410. 

Men's Final Overall Standings-1, Gray, 3831.5. 2, Kepka, 2251.5. 3, Izykowski, 2135.0. 4, Toth, 

Note: Top four skaters comprise the Jr. World team. Competing in Budapest, Hungary. Jan 10-12.