LAKE PLACID, New York — Nick Cunningham is generally considered a lock to make the U.S. bobsled national team this season.
He apparently wants to leave nothing to chance.
Cunningham teamed with firefighter Casey Wickline to win the first race of the national team trials Saturday at Mount Van Hoevenberg, beating the sled driven by longtime USA-1 pilot and three-time Olympic medalist Steven Holcomb by more than a quarter-second.
In the women's race, Elana Meyers Taylor drove to a narrow win over Jamie Greubel-Poser. Both were Olympic medalists last season and have already wrapped up national-team spots.
"It's always great to get back to racing and competition," said Cunningham, who was 13th in two-man and 12th in four-man at the Sochi Olympics last winter. "The rookies have really stepped up this week. This sport is not easy to learn and everyone has really bonded together, from the seasoned veterans to the brand new rookies."
Cunningham and Wickline finished two runs in 1 minute, 53.14 seconds. Holcomb and Aaron Victorian — a bobsled rookie from Hawaii — finished second in 1:53.41, while Codie Bascue and David Cremin were third in 1:53.54.
Bascue led after the first heat.
"Holcomb is as good as ever and Codie is really stepping up to show how good he really is," Cunningham said. "With this new class of brakeman, Codie is no longer seen as the young pilot. He is a veteran and has proved he is one the best in the USA."
Holcomb's spot on the national team is already assured because of his two Olympic bronze medals from Sochi. He's testing different equipment during the trials in an effort to prepare for the World Cup season.
"I'm friends with these guys, it's a great crew, and it's motivating for me to see them come around," Holcomb said. "We need to keep the streak going. The next four years are going to be grueling, and I know what it will take to keep this going, so I'm trying to take it slow this season and build up so that I don't burn out."
John Napier, a 2010 Olympian who is considering a comeback, was fourth in the men's field.
Meyers Taylor and Ajla Glavasevic were 0.12 seconds faster than Greubel-Poser in the first heat of the women's race and the margin held up, even after Gruebel-Poser and Cherelle Garrett had the best time in the second run.
Meyers Taylor finished in 1:55.45; Greubel-Poser's time was 1:55.55. Jazmine Fenlator, the third Olympic women's pilot for the U.S. last winter, paired with Natalie Deratt and was third, another 0.53 seconds back.
"We've still got plenty of work to do before World Cup, but this was a great start," Meyers Taylor said.
The bobsled trials will continue Nov. 7-8 in Park City, Utah, after which the national team for the coming season will be named. The U.S. skeleton team trials start in Lake Placid on Thursday, and USA Luge's national championships get underway Nov. 1.