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USA Luge juniors eyeing Park City home ice

Dec. 09, 2014, 12:49 p.m. (ET)

PARK CITY, Utah - After last week’s double Junior World Cup races at Whistler, British Columbia, the United States junior and youth luge teams are looking forward to the next stop on the tour in Park City, Utah on Dec. 15-16.

Youth boys, girls and doubles will race on Dec. 15, with junior men, women and the team competition set for Dec. 16. Race action begins at 9 AM Mountain Time each day. Official training sessions get underway Friday, Dec. 12 at 9 AM MT.

The American youngsters left the 2010 Vancouver Olympic site with a handful of top 10 results and a new appreciation for speed on what is arguably the world’s fastest course.

“I was pretty happy with the way the team performed in Whistler,” said USA Luge Junior National Team coach Fred Zimny. “All the athletes were there for the first time and actually took to the track quite well and quickly during the first week of training there. Training times were comparable or faster than most of the European athletes who were also in Whistler training. The race days can always be better but our athletes are definitely closing the gap.”

With top speeds in the neighborhood of 82 miles per hour, Raychel Germaine of Roswell, Ga. placed seventh in the first of two junior women’s races, finishing 4-tenths of a second behind winner Jessica Teibel of Germany. In the finale, Germaine improved to sixth in 1 minute, 18.681 seconds for the two heats. She closed the gap to 0.22 from the winner, Julia Taublitz, also of Germany.

Men’s junior champion Alex Ferlazzo of Australia, the first from his country to win an international luge event, defeated German Sebastian Bleh by a scant 0.001 of a second. Ferlazzo, a Sochi Olympian, tripped the radar trap at 85 miles per hour.

Jonny Gustafson of Massena, N.Y. and Jake Farquharson of Park City, racing through a fall foot injury, took 13th and 14th, respectively. In the second junior men’s competition, Gustafson was 12th and Farquharson 14th once again. Bley took the gold medal, while Ferlazzo wound up fifth, helped by fastest second heat.

Elijah Pedriani of New Haven, Vt. used strong starts in the youth men’s event to claim seventh and sixth place results. In the opener, Pedriani was 9-tenths of a second over two heats behind Canadian winner Adam Shippit who led a team sweep of the medals in both events. Pedriani’s sixth place result saw him bring the margin down to 0.56 of a second.

The youth women’s races saw Brittney Arndt of Park City and Gracie Weinberg of Middlebury, Vt. place 6-7 on day one. Weinberg took sixth in the second singles race with Arndt eighth.

USA Luge’s lone junior doubles team of Justin Krewson of Eastport, N.Y. and Tristan Jeskanen of Peru, N.Y. were in Lake Placid at that time making their World Cup debut. The duo slid to 13th place at Mount Van Hoevenberg. Krewson and Jeskanen will join their younger teammates in Park City.

The Utah venue, used in the 2002 Olympic Winter Games, is not the same speed track as Whistler, but it, too, brings racers from start to finish faster than many other layouts. The American team hopes to use its home ice knowledge to continue making improvements.

“Everyone is looking forward to getting back to Park City this coming week after a week of training there earlier in the fall,” continued Zimny. “There will be several younger athletes joining us who raced off and qualified for these races over the last couple of weeks. It will be great to fill out the field and see what these younger athletes can do. I have every confidence that our more experienced athletes will step up on race day, and maybe we’ll even see a few surprises from some of the athletes that will be competing in their first Junior World Cup race ever.”