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Celski and Smith earn short track berths

By: The Associated Press
January 3, 2014 Updated: January 3, 2014 at 8:41 pm
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photo - Jessica Smith reacts to the crowd before her race in the women's 1,500 meters during the U.S. Olympic short track speedskating trials, Friday, Jan. 3, 2014, in Kearns, Utah. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)
Jessica Smith reacts to the crowd before her race in the women's 1,500 meters during the U.S. Olympic short track speedskating trials, Friday, Jan. 3, 2014, in Kearns, Utah. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer) 

KEARNS, Utah — J.R. Celski qualified for his second Olympic team with a victory in the 1,500 meters and Jessica Smith made her first despite finishing second in the women's final at the U.S. short track trials on Friday night.

Celski cruised to an easy win in the second of two 1,500 finals. With seven laps to go, Celski zipped from fourth to first. Eddy Alvarez took the lead back before Celski regained it with four laps left. He built a big lead the rest of the way, and threw both arms in the air as he crossed the finish line first.

Smith finished behind winner Emily Scott in the second women's 1,500, but earned her Olympic berth by virtue of her lead in the overall point standings at the Utah Olympic Oval. Smith clapped her hands and smiled broadly as she crossed the line.

Five men and three women will make the U.S. team for the Sochi Games.

Celski also won the first 1,500 final of the night. The skater from Federal Way, Wash., came back to beat the same five rivals in the second final with retired short track star Apolo Anton Ohno looking on as a TV commentator.

Celski leads the 1,500 standings with 2,500 points. Alvarez, a former inline skater from Miami, was second with 1,632. Chris Creveling was third with 1,528.

Celski shook up a bottle of champagne on the awards podium and clearly delighted in spraying Alvarez and Creveling.

Creveling was disqualified in the second final for bumping Alvarez midway through the race when the skaters began jostling for position. That dropped Creveling to third in the standings and Alvarez moved up to second.

Celski won a pair of bronze medals at the Vancouver Olympics. He made that team after a serious injury sustained in a crash five months before the games. Celski's right skate sliced his left leg open in September 2009, bruising his femoral artery and coming inches from severing it, which could have been fatal.

On the women's side, Smith leads the 1,500 distance standings with 2,300 points. Scott was second at 2,200, and Alyson Dudek third with 1,600.

 

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