Cameron Naasz Looks to Unseat Scott Croxall as Red Bull Crashed Ice Champion
The final event of the Red Bull Crashed Ice Championships got underway on Friday afternoon with the Shootout event determining who would be the final 64 skaters to compete tomorrow night in St. Paul, MN. American Cameron Naasz is looking for a similar result from last year’s event, which would give him the opportunity to win his first title, and unseat current champion, Canada’s Scott Croxall. On Friday, Naasz served notice that he came here to win.
The shootout began with 92 male competitors from all over the world competing for those prized 64 spots. Naasz grabbed the best time of the day on the 360-meter course in a time of 30.24 on his first run. Skating in his home state, the Minnesotan sped down the course with incredible precision giving him an important psychological edge early on, as he now earns the pole position for each race on Saturday night. Naasz found the victory Friday to be a good one heading into the competition.
“It’s always good to do well in the shootout. It’s going to give me a good gate choice all night. I’m still going to have to race everyone. It’s just a little bit of an advantage. I like the track, I feel good out there. I feel confident.”
The victory on Friday was an important one, as Naasz chases Croxall for the overall championship title. Entering Saturday’s competition, the Canadian has a 65-point lead over the American. Naasz needs to finish in the top four and ahead of Croxall to grab the title. All Croxall needs to do is finish ahead of Naasz to retain his crown.
While Naasz was speeding his way to the pole position, Croxall struggled on his runs thanks, in large part, to the unusually warm temperatures in Minnesota. The Canadian was at a disadvantage of competing later in the shootout when the ice was chippie and slushy from above freezing temperatures. This led to three falls by the reigning champion and a tenth place overall finish for the day.
Those who are concerned that this is a sign of what’s to come tomorrow night have clearly not seen the skill and tenacity of Scott Croxall. For many years he has been regarded as a can’t miss champion who had trouble getting over the hump. Last season, St. Paul’s event was the first of the season and a ninth place finish there had people whispering that the failed aspirations were in the making again, but the then 24-year old delivered back-to-back victories in Finland and Northern Island before finishing second in Edmonton to grab the title. When the pressure is on, he has shown the ability to deliver his best performances.
“Experience is huge and confidence is everything,” says Croxall. “This will be my seventh full season, so after winning the Championship last year in my sixth season at age 24, I’m a young veteran in the sport. My head’s where it needs to be and I’m just happy to be competing.”
Cameron Naasz is looking to become the first American to win the Red Bull Crashed Ice Championship. He opened the season with back-to-back victories in Quebec City and Munich, Germany, but a fourth place finish in Jyvaskyla, Finland opened the door for Croxall.
The Canadian has steadily been taking his game to a new level with each competition, finishing third in Quebec City, then second in Munich, before winning in Finland. That has given him the narrowest of leads, 2950-2885, heading into the final competition of the season.
Naasz finished in fourth last year in St. Paul while Croxall was ninth. A similar outcome would make him this year’s Red Bull Crashed Ice Champion.
Saturday’s Shootout was dominated, for the most part, by representatives from three countries. Canada sends 18 competitors to the finals on Saturday night, followed by the United States with 15 and Finland with 9. Switzerland and Germany add 5 each.
Several of the sports top competitors advanced, including Germany’s Fabian Mels, who finished in fifth, Austria’s Luca Dallago, who finished in fourth in the shootout, and Canada’s John Fisher, who finished in sixth. Canadian Dean Moriarity finished just 0.02 seconds behind Naasz and enters the finals in the No. 2 position. Two other Americans finished in the top 10, including Reed Whiting (eighth) and rising star Tommy Mertz (ninth). Scott’s brother Kyle finished 11th overall.
Morarity enters Saturday’s competition a virtual lock for third in the overall championship standings. Several athletes are competing to move into the fourth place spot currently held by France’s Tristan Dugerdil.
Featured Image Courtesy of Joerg Mitter/Red Bull Content Pool
By Robert Pannier