KEARNS -- While Katherine Reutter's dreams of a fifth consecutive U.S. Short Track Championship are likely over, Lana Gehring is showing just how strong the women's team is this season
Gehring won the 500- and 1,500-meter races Saturday to maintain the overall lead heading into Sunday's final day of competition at the Utah Olympic Oval.
She did it in impressive fashion, blowing by the competition in the 1,500 then making a final-curve pass to win the 500.
"Lana is flying," said Reutter, who is fifth overall entering Sunday. "She's going faster than any of us can even imagine. Sometimes even in practice we're blown away by her speed."
Gehring, just 21, has been part on the national team for five years.
"It's all starting to come together," said Gehring, who was part of the bronze-medal winning relay team in Vancouver and has won two silver and a bronze in World Cup races this season.
Gehring has 2,900 points going into Sunday's 1,000 and 3,000. Alyson Dudek is second with 1,965 points, Emily Scott third (1,952), Jessica Smith fourth (1,740) and Reutter fifth (1,271).
The top four finishers automatically qualify for the World Cup team, with the top three eligible to skate individual races in the World Championships in Shanghai in March.
Reutter has been plagued by a nagging hip injury, and it showed Saturday.
She crashed out of the 1,500 finals with two laps to go, and failed to advance out of the semis in Saturday's 500. She finished fifth in both.
She still could claim one of the top three or four spots with a strong showing Sunday.
Or she could compete for individual World Cup titles as a discretionary pick but would be eligible to skate only the relay in the world championships. As a discretionary pick, Reutter would not be eligible to defend the 1,500 title she won at last year's world championship.
"Honestly, at this moment my body is a little more important than this year's results," said Reutter, a two-time Olympic medalist. "It's obvious that I've thought this entire time that I could overcome what my body is going thru. Now it's becoming painfully obvious that I'm not in as much control as I thought."
But she said this weekend is showing her more than anything how important it is to be healthy.
"I'll be happy if I can be healthy in 2014 because it's a lot closer than people realize," she said of the Sochi Olympics. "I already feel pressure for 2014 and it's not worth it to over-exert before then."
Simon Cho proved again Saturday that he is able to overcome his injury -- a lower-back fracture diagnosed Aug. 1.
He won the 500 meters Saturday and took second to John-Henry Krueger in the 1,500.
Cho leads the overall competition with two events remaining with 2,700 points. Travis Jayner is second with 1,856 points, Jordan Malone is third with 1,640 points, Krueger fourth with 1,568.50 points and Jonathan Garcia fifth with 1,325 points.
Krueger captured his first individual national senior title Saturday in the 1,500, edging Cho by .005 seconds in the finals at the Utah Olympic Oval.
Krueger, the youngest member of the team at 16, was battling a cold and 101-degree fever but had the endurance to jab his skate forward for the win, finishing in 2 minutes, 20.937 seconds. Cho took silver (2:20.937) and Jayner bronze (2:20.993). Less than six-hundredths of a second separated the top three skaters.
Krueger fell in the 500 finals. Cho won in 42.789 seconds, followed by Malone and Jayner.
Gehring blew by everyone in winning the 1,500 gold in 2:35.222.
"I felt as though I had a real good strategy," said Reutter, who was leading with five laps to go.
"I could tell that Lana was coming on the outside and I'm thinking, 'This is great. I'm going to be in second, this is exactly where I want to be.' Unfortunately Lana hammered a lot harder than I was prepared to hammer."
Reutter tried to hold onto second but clicked skates with Smith and both fell. Scott took silver and Dudek bronze.
Reutter never had it in the 500.
"I think this is a direct result of my injury," Reutter said. "I don't really run. I can't sprint. I can't jump. It's very difficult for me to weightlift for more than 2-3 days before I have to start taking time off. I'm disappointed with my results today, but it's where I'm at, where my body is allowing me to be."
As a world champion last year, Reutter could use that card to force a skate-off for one of the individual spots.
"I wouldn't do that to these girls," Reutter said.
Asked whether she would decline a discretionary spot to rest her body, Reutter couldn't say.
"Everyone has a different view of what I need to do right now," Reutter said. "That's a lie. Everyone agrees that I need to rest. Nobody is telling me to push myself. Nobody is telling me to win worlds. So I would make the decision that is smartest for my body."
The problem is that changes day to day.
The last time she skated in Utah, in October, she won a pair of World Cup gold medals, even with the hip injury.
"Three weeks ago I had a gold medal at a World Cup; today I was fifth at the U.S. Championships. Some days are amazing. Some days I don't have it," she said.
The women's team overall, however, continues to get stronger and deeper.
"We're growing so much as a team and as individuals," Gehring said. "We had a really tough summer (of workouts) and it's really all starting to pay off now. Hopefully at the world championship, it will show our talent and how we worked."