Former University of Minnesota hockey defenseman Brian Schack was the fastest qualifier from Thursday night's National Shoot Out as almost 100 athletes took to the 400-metre-long ice track in a brutally cold Saint Paul.
With the top 32 advancing to Friday’s Elimination Round to face off against 32 top international skaters this was the opportunity for many of the athletes to make a name for themselves in the new sport as ice cross downhill makes its mark in Minnesota, the State of Hockey.
Schack, a towering 6 foot 4 inch and 225-pound athlete and former Gopher, had a pair of brilliant runs down the 400-metre ice track set up on a slope in front of the Cathedral of Saint Paul and running down towards the frozen-solid Mississippi River, stopping the clock in 40.81 seconds on his first run.
American Adam Gerlach was second in 40.92, while Daniel Guolla, of Canada, took third on an evening when temperatures dipped as low as -17 degrees Celsius.
“It’s a good feeling to get first tonight but tomorrow when all the other international athletes are out here I’ll just be another name in the pile,” said Schack, 26. “I’m very happy with my time.”
Schack made it to the round of 64 in his first race in Quebec in 2012 and the Round of 32 in Niagara Falls in the last race in December.
21-year-old Tyler Whitty, the fastest skater from the final qualifying event in Saint Paul two weeks ago, came ninth. The native of nearby New Prague recorded a best time of 44.05 seconds.