Canada's Humphries and Meyers Taylor of the U.S. made their World Cup debuts as four-man pilots Saturday in Calgary.
Humphries and Meyers Taylor drove all-male crews to 15th and 16th respectively in a field of 17 at Canada Olympic Park. A Latvian sled crashed in the first run and did not race the second heat.
Women's bobsled has been a two-person event since it was introduced at the 2002 Winter Olympics, while the men have raced both two-man and four-man sleds since the 1932 Winter Games.
"(Elana) and I really want to try and get more women driving the four-man and eventually have women's four-man as its own event, so the women can have two events, two and four, and so can the men," Humphries said following the race.
"In the meantime, this kind of bridges the gap a little bit."
Humphries defended her Olympic gold medal in women's bobsled while Meyers Taylor took silver in Sochi, Russia, this year.
"Hopefully it's a starting point to get our own women's discipline," Meyers Taylor said. "That's what we're after. If this is all we can do in the meantime, compete against men, we're going to give it our best shot and go for it."
Humphries finished 1.03 seconds behind and Meyers Taylor 1.68 back of winner Oskars Melbardis of Latvia, who swept the men's races in Calgary. Melbardis drove to four-man gold Saturday after winning the two-man race the previous evening.
Francesco Friedrich of Germany took silver with teammate Maximilian Arndt driving another German sled to third. Calgary's Chris Spring and Justin Kripps of Kelowna, B.C., were 10th and 11th respectively.
Another Latvian sled piloted by Oskars Kibermanis upended in the first run and slid the remaining two-thirds of the way down the track on its side.
It was a reminder of how challenging it is to steer 1,388 pounds worth of sled and bodies 120 kilometres per hour down an icy track. Four-man has been compared to driving a school bus.
"Driving a four-man is no joke," Humphries acknowledged. "It's a premier event, but when it goes wrong, it goes really wrong. It is a lot harder to control and to steer. You've kind of got to take command of it."
It was a hectic race day for Humphries and Meyers Taylor as the pilots had less than an hour between women's bobsled and the men's event.
Meyers Taylor and brakeman Charelle Barrett won their second women's World Cup in as many races after taking gold in the season-opener last week in Lake Placid, N.Y.
Anja Schneiderheinze and Franziska Bertels of Germany were second. Humphries and new brakeman Kate O'Brien of Calgary took bronze.
After accepting their flowers, Humphries and Meyers Taylor jumped in cars and quickly returned to the top of the track for another pair of runs in the longer, heftier sleds with more horsepower pushing them off the start.
Humphries was reluctant to claim making bobsled history. The 29-year-old Calgarian points out there were mixed-gender sleds in the sport's origins.
"I don't think we actually did make history," she explained. "When the sport first began, there used to be four girls and one guy, way, way, way back. So really, in all fairness, I think we're just going back to the roots of having a woman in with the men."
Humphries' crew of Dan Dale of Grande Prairie, Alta., D.J. McLelland of Calgary and Joey Nemet of Hamilton, Ont. also made their World Cup debuts Saturday.
"I'm really proud of what she did today and kind of overcame having to do all four runs, two different races and drive two different sleds," Dale said. "It's a testament to the kind of competitor she is."
Humphries decribed their first run as "sketchy", but they were faster in their second run than Kripps's sled.
"Switching between two and four is a challenge especially today I think we saw that in my first run," Humphries said.
"That's going to be the balance all year, for Alana and I to figure out how to switch between four-man and two-man. Most of the time we have a day in between to mentally wrap your head around it."
Four men built like linebackers charging a sled towards the start line is like watching the running of the bulls. It's a testosterone-laden world.
"It was pretty cool to be in the start house with all the guys grunting and everything and I'm just sitting in the corner listening to my music," Meyers Taylor said. "It's pretty cool to get this World Cup under my belt."
Meyers Taylor says women sledders from different countries will talk to each other, congratulate and wish each other luck before and between races.
"The men, they don't talk before the competition at all. You don't go say 'hi' to Germany or whatever," the Californian said.
"The women in general, we tend to take it as a competition against ourselves. We're just trying to be as fast as we can down the hill. The men are competing one on one. They're out for blood."
The Canadian bobsled and skeleton teams depart Dec. 30 for the next World Cup stop in Altenberg, Germany.
Humphries will race the women's event there, but not four-man on that track. Spring's team had a crash there in 2012 that put three of them in the hospital.
"It's a track that's not on the circuit all the time. Four-man for Kaillie this year isn't about going out and winning World Cup medals," Canadian bobsled coach Chris LeBihan said. "It's about her skill acquisition of the four-man.
"It's not that we don't think Kaillie is good enough, but whether it's really worth it based on what we're trying to achieve and as a coaching staff we decided no."