- Associated Press - Saturday, January 7, 2017

KEARNS, Utah (AP) - Mia Manganello doesn’t like to use the phrase “burned out,” but that’s what she was when she quit speed skating in 2010. She’d missed out on qualifying for the Vancouver Games and was frustrated with the sport she’d dedicated her life to since she was 8 years old.

Manganello, however, returned to the ice in 2016 after six years of competitive cycling and has racked up the wins this weekend at the U.S. Speed Skating Championships.

“Skating is my heart,” Manganello said. “It’s everything I am. I’ve skated my entire life. It makes me giddy. It just excites me. Bike racing is amazing and it filled that void for a little while. But there’s that extra little dream there in reaching the Olympics.”

Manganello won the women’s long track 1,500 meters in 1:56.43 and the 5,000 in 7:09.36 on Saturday. Both were personal bests. That followed Friday’s 3,000 in which she matched Catherine Raney Norman’s 2005 American record with a time of 4:01.98 - the second-fastest in the world this season.

In 2010, though, she lost the will to compete.

“I had somewhat plateaued at that moment in my life and I wasn’t having fun anymore,” Manganello said. “It was an obligation. It was just something I did. I woke up, I trained, I raced. It’s just what I did. And it came natural enough where I did well. Not spectacular, but I did well enough that it kept me in it.

“But after the 2010 Olympics, it was a huge disappointment with the results. I was just done. I needed a break.”

Manganello picked up cycling from her skating training sessions and just stuck with it. The competitor in her never went away and she noticed former teammates excelling last year. Her ego said, “I can do that.”

“There was about a year after I quit where I was kind of content with it,” Manganello said. “I don’t need skating, all that. But then it just creeped back in and there was a huge gap and a huge regret. I don’t want to say regret because I will say that it was an amazing thing that happened to me - quitting and realizing what my actual passion was.

“I knew I had this dream to accomplish and I was capable of that. It was just a matter of getting my ego out of the way and knowing it was OK to come back and try again.”

The U.S. Championships can be tough for the top competitors because it doesn’t have the same stakes or quality of competition as World Cup events. Manganello acknowledged she’s using this as a practice session and was trying out a new race plan when she matched the American record in the 3,000. She called it a “career-changing lesson.”

Joey Mantia posted the fastest time in the world this season with a 1:43.00 in the long track 1,500, but he didn’t even want to race when he woke up Saturday. Shani Davis placed second in 1:44.62, the third-fastest time in the world this season.

“To be honest, it’s kind of hard to get motivated for this competition because our world championships has already been decided off the first four World Cups,” Mantia said. “There’s nothing really more (at stake) than being national champion, which is awesome, but in the bigger picture of the world championships when you’re racing against the best guys in the world every time you go to World Cup, it’s hard to get amped up for a national championship like this.

“Just wanted to execute some good skating and try to motivate myself even though this morning I woke up and was like, ‘Man I got to get up and go warm up at 7 o’clock in the morning and race.’ We get spoiled at World Cups, we skate in the afternoon for TV coverage. So we get to sleep in. That was kind of tough.”

Manganello was thrilled to be so successful this weekend because she was using the event for practice and Mantia had a similar feeling. He’s “ecstatic” to race so well after having no motivation in the morning.

Emery Lehman recorded a season-best 13:54.81 while winning the 10,000.

Three-time Olympic medalist J.R. Celski swept the men’s short track events Saturday by winning the 1,500 in 2:15.218 and the 500 in 40.848.

Two-time Olympic medalist Katherine Reutter won the women’s short track 1,500 in 2:37.811 and Jessica Kooreman won the women’s 500 in 45.129.

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