Celski, Reutter win 1,500 meters

Updated: September 9, 2009, 11:33 PM ET
Associated Press

MARQUETTE, Mich. -- J.R. Celski keeps beating childhood idol Apolo Anton Ohno.

Celski easily won the 1,500 meters at the U.S. short track speedskating national championships Wednesday night. He crossed the finish line waving his right arm in the air, leaving Ohno and Jordan Malone to battle it out for second.

Ohno barely got his blade in front of Malone, who ended up crashing into the boards after they crossed the line.

Celski, a 19-year-old skater from Federal Way, Wash. -- a suburb of Ohno's hometown of Seattle -- was timed in 2:22.834. He won the nine-lap time trial a night earlier with a personal-best time that left Ohno in second in their head-to-head pairing.

Ohno was clocked in 2:23.050, and Malone was third in 2:23.058.

Celski began skating as a 3-year-old at the same club where Ohno was already rising as an 11-year-old. Celski was too young to compete in the Olympic trials four years ago, when Ohno won a gold and two bronze medals at the Torino Games.

"It's great for our sport," Ohno said about facing increased competition at home.

The men's final was jammed with seven skaters, including Eddy Alvarez who got in after Joey Lindsey was disqualified for impeding in their earlier heat. Ohno false-started before the 13½-lap race began slowly.

The speed picked up with five laps to go and Celski leading the way. Ohno moved from fourth to second over the final laps, with the five-time Olympic medalist using his racing experience to edge Malone at the finish.

"I just moved a lap too late," Ohno said.

The 500 meters was short track at its wildest. Simon Cho emerged the winner, with Ohno taking second and Jeffrey Simon third after Celski was disqualified for impeding. Simon fell in the last turn.

"I was prepared to be second. I was setting up the last corner," Ohno said. "There was no room, and J.R. and I bumped and then I bumped Simon. It was like a domino effect."

Cho earned the first national title of his career.

"I knew before it started it was going to be pretty crazy," he said. "My main goal was to stay relaxed and make my move as late as possible. I started second and knew Apolo and J.R. were behind me trying to set up their moves. I was kind of panicking on the last lap because I had fallen into last place."

Celski remained atop the overall men's standings with 3,312 points -- 400 ahead of Ohno. Malone was third, Cho fourth and Travis Jayner fifth. The top five men and top five women will earn Olympic berths.

On the women's side, Katherine Reutter won the 1,500 in 2:24.184.

The 21-year-old skater from Champaign, Ill., took the lead with an outside pass late in the race. She stayed there the rest of the way in winning the first of two women's finals at the distance.

Two-time Olympian Allison Baver, making a comeback after breaking her lower right leg in February, held on for second despite slipping on the last lap. She pumped her right arm after crossing the finish line just ahead of 2006 Olympian Kimberly Derrick. Baver was disqualified for impeding in the 500 meter `B' final.

Reutter remained atop the overall points standings with 3,152 on the second night of the four-day meet that determines the Olympic team for Vancouver.

Reutter advanced to the 500 meter championship final, but she crashed into the boards with 2½ laps to go and wound up last among four skaters. Alyson Dudek won, with Lana Gehring second and Derrick third. Dudek was 184 points behind Reutter in the standings.

"I fell for the worst reason, I hit a block," Reutter said. "It's kind of a rookie mistake. The 500 is not my strongest event."

It was Reutter's second fall. The final was restarted after she landed on her left knee going into the first turn.

Morgan Izykowski, the 18-year-old sister of 2006 Olympian Alex Izykowski, had a nightmare evening. She never got to skate after being disqualified for two false starts in both her 1,500 and 500 heats.


Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

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