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    Saturday, December 27, 1997

    Five skaters win berths on the U.S. Olympic team

     WEST ALLIS, Wis. (AP) -- Chris Witty wins races even when there isn't any pressure to be the first across the finish line.
     The West Allis resident starred on a day in which five skaters qualified for the 1,000-meter race at the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano. The irony was that Witty had already qualified for that event and thus had nothing to gain with her record-setting race.
     "It's made me feel more relaxed," Witty said of having pre-qualified. "It's kind of odd to be here and to see your friends all nervous and you're not."
     Witty won the 500-meter race in 39.40 seconds, and set a Pettit National Ice Center record in the 1,000 of 1 minute, 19.31 seconds at the U.S. Long Track Olympic Trials. Witty, who earlier this year set a world record in the 1,000 of 1:15.43, bettered Bonnie Blair's 1995 track record of 1:19.43.
     This is the first year skaters have been able to qualify for the U.S. team before the team trials, which continue Sunday and resume next Saturday through Monday.
     Although Witty had no pressure, other skaters had to deal with it to qualify for the Winter Games.
     Both Rebecca Sundstrom of Glen Ellyn, Ill., who finished second to Witty in both races (40.26 and 1:19.52), and Moira D'Andrea of Saratoga Springs, N.Y., who was third in both events (40.64 and 1:20.20), qualified at 1,000 meters.
     Qualifying for 1,000 meters on the men's team were Cory Carpenter of Brookfield, Wis., who won in 1:12.98; KC Boutiette of Tacoma, Wash., who was second at 1:13.21 and had earlier qualified at 1,500 meters and 5,000 meters; and Nathaniel Mills of Washington, third at 1:13.96.
     Witty said not having to worry about qualifying is helping her prepare for the Olympics.
     "Absolutely," she said. "I've been able to train through the Olympic trials this year. I didn't have to back off or have several peaks. I can just work at peaking for the Olympics."
     Boutiette is the former in-line speedskater who made the 1994 team after only a few months on ice skates. He hopes to qualify at other distances as well, and is the team's best hope for a medal among male skaters.
     "I'm glad I qualified in the thousand," Boutiette said. "I'm not trying to knock anybody out (of the Olympics). I just have to do what I have to do. I want to do well at the Olympic trials."
     Boutiette feels he is closer to "Eric's background than Dan's." Eric is Eric Heiden, who won five golds in the 1980 games, and Dan is Dan Jansen, who won a gold in 1994.
     "That's more what I think I can be," he said of Heiden, perhaps the greatest all-around skater in Olympic history.
     It will be the first Olympics for Sundstrom, the sprint champion last year. She was nervous she wouldn't make it.
     "It's difficult when you go to that (starting) line and not be (nervous) when it's something you've never done," she said of making an Olympic team. "It feels wonderful."
     Casey FitzRandolph of Verona, Wis., won the men's 500-meter race in 36.43. Carpenter was second in the 500 (36.72) and David Cruikshank of Brookfield, Wis., third (36.79).
     Three of the team members at 500 meters for both the men's and women's teams will be chosen Sunday after a second 500-meter race. The fourth qualifier will be picked after a final race next weekend. Another will make the 1,000 team in a race Sunday.
     Skaters also will race Sunday over 1,500 meters, and three women and two men will be able to qualify at that distance. Boutiette has already qualified at 1,500 meters.
     Speedskating Trials Results
     MILWAUKEE (AP) -- Results Saturday of the U.S. Olympic Long Track Speedskating Trials at the Pettit National Ice Center:
     500--1, Casey FitzRandolph, Verona, Wis., 36.43.. 2, Cory Carpenter, Brookfield, Wis., 36.72. 3, David Cruikshank, Northbrook, Ill., and Marc Pelchat, Chelmsford, Mass., 36.79. 5, KC Boutiette, Tacoma, Wash., 37.04. 6, Nathaniel Mills, Washington, DC, 37.28.
     1,000--1, Carpenter, 1:12.98. 2, Boutiette, 1:13.21. 3, Mills, 1:13.96. 4, FitzRandolph, 1:14.20. 5, Timothy Hoffmann, Waukesha, Wis., 1:14.26. 6, Ryan Shimabukuro, Honolulu, 1:15.24.
     500--1, Chris Witty, West Allis, Wis., 39.40. 2 Rebecca Sundstrom, Glen Ellyn, Ill., 40.26 . 3 Moira D'Andrea, Saratoga Springs, N.Y., 40.64. 4 Amy Sannes, St. Paul, Minn., 40.87. 5 Jennifer Rodriguez, Waukesha, Wis., 40.90. 6. Kim Strzykalski, East Troy, Wis., 41.15.
     1,000--1, Witty, 1:19.31. 2, R. Sundstrom, 1:19.52; 3, D'Andrea, 1:20.20; 4, Rodriguez, 1:20.29; 5, Sannes, 1:21.97; 6, Tama Sundstrom, Glen Ellyn, Ill., 1:23.15.