PARK CITY, Utah – Emily Sweeney and the doubles team of Sochi Olympians Matt Mortensen and Jayson Terdiman completed the fall sweep of luge races Sunday at the Utah Olympic Park by winning their respective 2015 Norton National Championships.
Aidan Kelly, another 2014 Olympian, claimed his first national championship. Kelly nearly achieved the same sweep in the men’s division. Only a win last week in Lake Placid by Tucker West stood in Kelly’s way.
Sweeney and the Mortensen-Terdiman duo won both team seeding races as well as the nationals. They captured gold medals in Saturday night’s second seeding race as well as last week’s first event in Lake Placid, N.Y., prior to the national championship.
“I felt more confident going into this season,” said Sweeney, of Suffield, Conn., with roots in Saranac Lake, N.Y. “At the very beginning of the season, I was actually pretty slow. But it didn’t worry me. It didn’t frustrate me. I just knew that I was doing what I was supposed to be doing. I know I have the skills. I know I have a good feeling on the sled. I just knew it was all going to come together. It was an odd thing.”
Mortensen and Terdiman are heading a trio of doubles teams that will race in the World Cup. Yet they are only in their second year together, having qualified for the 2014 Olympics with different teammates.
“We were consistent here all week, from run one,” said Terdiman, the back driver from Berwick, Pa. “Last year we came here for a few days of training and in the first run we crashed. But this week, right off the bat things were great.”
“This was an interesting weekend of racing,” stated Kelly. “We had much harder ice than all week in training.
“I honestly wasn’t too concerned with the national title. I was trying to make the World Cup team. So after I did that it was a big weight off my shoulders. Any day of the week, any one of us could be the fastest. At our level of sliding, it comes down to who has the best runs that day.”
Sweeney won the 2013 Junior World Championship on this same track that hosted the sliding events during the 2002 Olympic Winter Games. Her four-heat total, including Saturday night’s two runs, was 2 minutes, 57.922 seconds.
“Honestly, I’m just exhausted,” she said after claiming the U.S. crown. “We had a lot of training. It’s a relief that I pulled it together for the race.
“I’m very happy. I’ve had a lot of support over the years, and now to have a national championship title, it feels good for the people who’ve been cheering me on.”
Sochi Olympian Summer Britcher, of Glen Rock, Pa., took the silver medal in 2:58.165, with Vancouver Olympian Julia Clukey, of Augusta, Maine, picking up the bronze medal in 2:58.374.
Raychel Germaine, of Roswell, Ga., placed fourth. Her third place time in Saturday night’s seeding race secured the final World Cup berth for the first-year World Cup team member. For good measure, she nailed down the best heats in two of the four national championship runs.
Erin Hamlin, of Remsen, N.Y., the Sochi bronze medalist and 2009 World Champion, had problems at the top of the course in two runs, and finished fifth.
Mortensen and Terdiman collaborated on their second straight Norton doubles title in as many seasons as they’ve been together. Unlike singles, the doubles race was two heats over one day, and had fluctuating conditions.
“The track was initially slower than it was yesterday,” said Mortensen, of Huntington Station, N.Y. “But the air temperature cooled off a bit, and the track set up a little (making it faster).”
The winners had the fastest individual heat times, totaling 1:28.925. While they were challenged by Justin Krewson, of Eastport, N.Y., and Andrew Sherk, of Fort Washington, Pa., at the start of each run, Mortensen and Terdiman drove themselves to victory.
“We definitely drove better today than yesterday,” continued Mortensen. “I still would have liked to have caught more pressure in certain corners, but I’m definitely happy with the result.”
“We’re becoming more solid together,” added Terdiman. “Our position (on the sled) is coming around. Today in the race I really noticed Matt laying back, really pinching his shoulders back. And I was trying to keep my head up with his and be as aerodynamic and as fast as possible. Once these little things start kicking in, we’re hopefully going to be a bit of a force to reckon with on the international stage as well.”
The runners-up clocked 1:29.182. Jake Hyrns, of Muskegon, Mich. and Anthony Espinoza, of Park City, were third in 1:29.944.
Kelly, of West Islip, N.Y. used his advantage from Saturday night, helped by the unexpected crashes of West and Chris Mazdzer in the opening leg. Those incidents relegated the men’s competition to a two-sled event, which Kelly captured in 3:05.274.
Taylor Morris, of South Jordan, Utah was the silver medalist in 3:05.929. Mazdzer, the two-time Olympian from Saranac Lake, N.Y., was third in 3:24.063. West, of Ridgefield, Conn., a Sochi Olympian placed fourth. The latter two athletes dominated Sunday’s heats, each placing first and second. Furthermore, West claimed the fastest run times in two of the four attempts.
The 13-member American squad now departs Monday for Europe and a three week swing through Germany and Austria that will culminate outside Innsbruck for the World Cup opener November 28-29.
Thereafter the tour comes to North America for consecutive stops in Lake Placid (Dec. 4-5), Park City (Dec. 11-12) and Calgary, Alberta (Dec. 18-19).
Interviews with Matt Mortensen, Jayson Terdiman, Emily Sweeney and Aidan Kelly below.