KEARNS — Kristen Santos faced a formidable field of short track skaters in the last races of the U.S. Championships Sunday morning at the Utah Olympic Oval.
But her toughest competition wasn’t skating on the ice next to her, it was the doubt that seems to take hold of her in the most critical moments of her career.
“Usually I mess up the winer trials,” said the native of Connecticut. “I get really high anxiety, have really high expectations and freak myself out. But I’m happy that I didn’t self-destruct. I’m obviously happy with today.”
That’s because Santos edged out 2018 Olympian and junior U.S. short track champion Maame Biney and several others in a very competitive race to earn the 1,000-meter victory. The win secured the overall title of U.S. short track champion for Santos, who won the 1,500-meter title on Saturday.
Her victory came after she admitted she didn’t feel well in Saturday’s 1,500-meter event.
“I won, which was great,” she said of the 1,500. “But I felt really sluggish.”
Hong won the men’s 1,000-meter title on Sunday, but Aaron Tran claimed the U.S. short track men’s championship after a first, second and third place finish in three events over the weekend.
“Going into the 500, I had a little bit of pressure on me,” Hong said after earning the 1,000-meter victory. “I did pretty poorly in the 1,500. I fell. But even before I fell, the race just wasn’t working out for me. I was feeling a little under the weather so I was playing it a little conservative in that race. After the 1,500m, I knew I had to win the 500, and thankfully that worked out for me.”
Tran won the 1,500-meter event and took second in the 500 on Saturday.Comment on this story
“I was trying to control the race,” Tran said of Sunday’s 1,500. “When there’s eight people in the race, you don’t want to get stuck in the back when the pace picks up. Whenever I felt someone moving up, I’d accelerate my speed and time my pass with their pass so I’d always be in the front of the pack.”
The youngest competitors proved their mettle at the U.S. Championships.
“I’m pretty pleased,” said U.S. National Short Track head coach Wilma Boomstra. “The young ones stepped it up again a notch. You can see the gap between them is getting smaller, which means their levels are getting higher and higher, which means we’ll be ready for international competitions. I love how my team works together. They’ve got each other’s backs, and I love that. So I’m happy.”