ST. LOUIS — Ryan Bedford led a trio of qualifiers on a light opening day at the U.S. Short Track Speedskating Championships on Thursday.
Bedford, a member of the national long track team from Midland, Mich., was one of six skaters participating in individual time trials. Walter Rusk of Corona, Calif., and Carly Wilson of Jefferson City also beat the qualifying standard.
Skaters were timed over nine laps on the Olympic hockey-size surface at the Hardee's Iceplex, a former training site for the NHL's St. Louis Blues in Chesterfield. Bedford had a time of 1:28.147; Rusk was timed in 1:30.806; and Wilson, a member of the U.S. national short track training program, was timed in 1:36.976.
Those three join an exclusive field of 26 men and 21 women, which will be whittled down to 16 men and 16 women during time trials on Friday. All of the qualifiers will compete at 500, 1,000, 1,500 and 3,000 meters, plus a 3,000-meter relay event for men and 1,500-meter relay for women.
The 1,500 is the lone event set for Friday, with the 500 on Saturday and the final three events on Sunday. The 3,000 meters is a grueling 27 laps.
The top five finishers in each event qualify for the U.S. team that will skate in the 2009 World Cup and the 2009 World Championships.
"It's a very exclusive field," said Russ Owen, president of the Missouri Speedskating Association and meet director.
Apolo Anton Ohno, a five-time Olympic medalist from Seattle, heads a field that includes the country's top short track skaters. There are four other Olympians in the competition.
The United States has won 12 medals, four of them gold, since short track speed skating became an Olympic event in 1992.
St. Louis has held two world meets, the last time in 1999.