LAKE PLACID, N.Y. - A pair of first-time winners and a return champion stood atop the Norton Junior National Championship podium today at the Olympic Sports Complex, located six miles outside of Lake Placid, N.Y.
L to R: Sweeney, Britcher and Buckley
Summer Britcher of Glen Rock, Pa. edged out last year’s titlist Emily Sweeney with a winning time of 2 minutes, 58.943 seconds over four heats of racing. Sweeney, the reigning junior World Champion, clocked a time of 2:59.205 in her final race as a junior-level athlete (to age 20). Sweeney used her last junior race to test new runners in preparation for next season. Theresa Buckley, a 16 year old from Allentown, Pa., took the bronze in 1:30.391. Buckley is still eligible to race as a youth competitor (to age 17).
Britcher had problems in the opening heat of the competition yesterday, sending her sled into a skid on the exit of curves 12 and 14 on the 1130 meter course. Today was a different story.
"They (my race runs) were both so smooth and good today," said the 2012 Norton National Championship bronze medalist. "It was definitely an improvement from yesterday."
L to R: West, Kelly and Underwood
Aidan Kelley won his first-ever national title after a mistake in the chicane section of the track cost his close friend Tucker West the victory. Kelly, of West Islip, N.Y., finished in 3:04.770, while Ridgefield, Conn. native West, the reigning co-National Champion with Chris Mazdzer, clocked in at 3:04.909. Levi Underwood of Skandia, Mich. was third in 3:08.767.
"It feels good," said Kelly of his Norton junior title. "I wish he (West) would have had better runs. I’d feel a little bit better about beating him, but I’ll take a win any way I can get it."
The four-run race format over two days is used to emulate the Olympic competition schedule. Each day, two race heats take place for the men and women. The USA Luge coaching staff treats each day as individual, two-run competitions for team selection purposes. Yesterday, West edged out Kelly for the victory, with Underwood in third. Today, Kelly took the win over West, with Riley Stohr of Whitehall, Mich. in third. Sweeney finished in front of Britcher yesterday and the duo swapped spots today. Buckley held third both days.
The Olympic doubles format is a two heat competition. As such, today’s competition followed the same format.
L to R: Jeskanen, Krewson, Espinoza, Andersen, Underwood and Poarch
The team of Ty Andersen and Anthony Espinoza, overall 2012-13 junior World Cup bronze medalists, captured the win in 1:27.995. Justin Krewson of Eastport, N.Y. and Tristan Jeskanen of Peru, N.Y., this year’s overall youth World Cup bronze medalists, were second, stopping the clock in 1:29.141. Underwood teamed with Sandy Hook, Conn. resident Charlie Poarch to take third place in 1.29.965. Underwood and Poarch rebuilt their sled overnight following a crash on Saturday.
Yesterday’s finish order was the same as todays in the doubles competition, except Underwood and Poarch did not finish the race following their crash. No bronze medal was awarded, as there were three sleds entered in the competition.
Andersen and Espinoza ended their career as junior-level athletes and hope to graduate to the national team ranks next season.
"I think we’re both really confident going into seniors (national team)," said Espinoza of Park City, Utah. "But we’re also kind of careful about where egos go. We know it’s going to be some tough competition out there."
Andersen, of Alpine, Utah, does plan to make a big push to qualify for the 2014 Olympic in Sochi, Russia next year.
"That really is a huge drive," said the 2012 Youth Olympic Games relay gold medalist. "It gives you a nice push every day. It’s awesome."
The national luge racing season comes to a close with next weekend’s Norton Youth National Championships. The action can be seen live on www.usaluge.org, courtesy of West World Media.
Interview with Buckley, Sweeney and Britcher
Interview with Underwood, West and Kelly
Interview with Underwood, Poarch, Jeskanen, Krewson, Andersen and Espinoza