Hedrick, Lamb winners at U.S. speedskating qualifier

WEST ALLIS, Wis. -- Olympic champion Chad Hedrick won at
5,000 meters and Maria Lamb captured the 3,000 Saturday in the fall
World Cup qualifier for the U.S. speedskating team.

Hedrick of Spring, Texas, easily won in 6 minutes, 43.08 seconds
at the Pettit National Ice Center, far slower than his gold-medal
time of 6:14.68 at the Turin Games.

"Not a great time, but it's a stepping stone," Hedrick said.

He is easing back into skating after a five-month layoff from
training and competition. He finished 10th in the 500-meter race
Friday in the only other event he entered in the four-day event to
select long track sprint and allround teams for World Cup

Hedrick, who also won silver and bronze medals in Turin, already
has qualified for the World Cup team. He is trying to get back into
shape for the rest of the season.

In the only other event, Lamb of River Falls won the women's
3,000 in 4:22.49.

"I felt pretty good," she said.

After a women's 5,000 and a men's 10,000 Sunday, U.S. coaches
will make their final selections for the team. The only other
prequalified skaters besides Hedrick are Shani Davis of Chicago,
who has also won a spot on the short track team, and Catherine
Raney of Elm Grove.

Ordinarily, there would be more prequalified skaters based on
past performances, but medal-winning skaters like Casey
FitzRandolph, Derek Parra, Jennifer Rodriguez and Joey Cheek have
either retired or are pursuing other interests this season. Their
absence has opened spots for newcomers like Jessica Smith of
Melvindale, Mich., who has made the team based on her runs in two
500-meter races.

The 23-year-old Smith began competing in inline skating when she
was 13 and has won a dozen world titles. She switched to the ice in
2004 because she wanted to compete in an Olympics.

"It feels good," she said. "I'm glad to do it now so I have
more time to get used to the competition. It will help me in my
goal of making an Olympic team."

Her best finish in the two 500s was third. She also placed
fourth in the 3,000.