LAKE PLACID, N.Y. - Although March 20 marked the first day of spring, winter conditions greeted the athletes competing in the Norton Junior National Seeding Race at the Olympic Sports Complex. Temperatures in the low twenties combined with a smooth track to create near-record ice conditions for Tucker West, Emily Sweeney and the doubles team of Ty Andersen and Anthony Espinoza to take gold in their respective categories.
The race was the first of two seeding competitions used to help select athletes for the fall 2013 junior national teams. The second seeding race will be held tomorrow at the Olympic Sports Complex. The times from the two days of racing are totaled to determine the National Champions.
West, of Ridgefield, Conn., took the gold in 1 minute, 32.437 seconds over West Islip, N.Y. native Aidan Kelly, who crossed the finish line in 1:32.586. Levi Underwood of Skandia, Mich. was third in the men’s competition with a time of 1:33.975.
West tied Chris Mazdzer for the gold medal in the 2012 Norton National Championships. Ironically, he has never won a Junior National Championship title. When asked about winning the Junior National Championship title while leading at the half way point, West was cautious.
"That’s (the Junior National Championship) the goal, but anything can happen," said the2012 Youth Olympic Games team relay gold medalist. "I have only a tenth (of a second) lead over the next day."
Emily Sweeney, the reigning Junior World Champion from Suffield, Conn., took top honors in 1:29.536 over Glen Rock Pa.’s Summer Britcher, who clocked in at 1:29.674. Theresa Buckley of Allentown, Pa. was third with 1:31.143.
Sweeney, who made a last minute decision to race in her last competition as a junior (to age 20) athlete, used the race conditions to test new runners.
"Things went alright (today), so we’re going to change things up a little more for tomorrow and see how it goes," said the 2012 Norton Junior National Champion of her new runners. "They seem to be alright."
Ty Andersen of Alpine, Utah and Anthony Espinoza of Park City, Utah, overall Junior World Cup bronze medalists, won the doubles competition in 1:27.531. Justin Kewson of Eastport, N.Y. and Tristan Jeskanen of Peru, N.Y., overall Youth World Cup bronze medalists, were second in 1:28.958. The duo of Levi Underwood and Charlie Poarch from Sandy Hook, Conn. crashed in their second run and did not finish the race. Both athletes were uninjured, but their sled was damaged. The USA Luge coaching staff will attempt to repair the sled overnight.
Tomorrow’s races can be seen live at 8:00 AM ET on www.usaluge.org, courtesy of West World Media.
Tucker West and Aidan Kelly interviews
Emily Sweeney interview
Summer Britcher (first voice you hear) and Theresa Buckley interview