MILWAUKEE (AP) — Ethan Cepuran rallied on the last lap to win the men’s 5,000 meters and Mia Manganello Kilburg took the women’s 3,000 on Wednesday on opening night of the U.S. Olympic speedskating trials without spectators.
Cepuran made up more than a second in his pairing with Casey Dawson to win by 0.03 seconds after trailing most of the 12 1/2-lap race at the Pettit National Ice Center.
“You can’t die too early. The moment you give up in a 5k, the race is over. You can’t get it back,” Cepuran said. "I knew if I could just keep Casey within my sights I could dig deep the last couple laps.”
Cepuran was timed in 6 minutes, 16.53 seconds. Dawson finished second in 6:16.57. Cepuran earned a berth for next month’s Beijing Olympics. Dawson could still make the team depending on quotas.
Two-time Olympian Emery Lehman was third at 6:16.70. Lehman only skated one lap over 30 seconds and had the top time before he was surpassed by Cepuran and Dawson. The top three men were separated by just 0.17 seconds.
The women's event wasn't close.
Manganello Kilburg won the 3,000 in 4:07.60 to earn a spot in Beijing. She won a bronze medal in team pursuit at the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics.
“My coach told me it’s the best 3K I’ve ever done under him,” Manganello Kilburg said.
Dessie Weigel finished second at 4:15.34 — a whopping 7.74 seconds behind. Jamie Jurek was third at 4:18.98.
The five-day trials were closed to spectators and media because of a surge in COVID-19 cases.
Manganello Kilburg said she benefited from not having fans.
“I tend to get excited and a bit anxious within the race hearing everybody, ‘Go! Go! Go!’" she said. “It kind of helped to not have the outside noise to really be able to focus on what I needed to focus on and hearing my coach on the backstretch.”
Several skaters' parents were watching online and cheering. Cepuran's older brother, Gordon, called the 5,000 at the Pettit.
“It would have been amazing to have the stands just packed. I had tons of family planning on coming up to watch,” Cepuran said, while agreeing that keeping fans away was the best move. “The biggest thing is to make sure we get to Beijing.”
Two-time Olympian and current world champion Brittany Bowe heads the field for the women's 1,000 on Thursday.
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