LAKE PLACID, N.Y. – World Cup team spots will be finalized starting Friday, October 30 in Lake Placid, when the USA Luge National Team hits the ice for the first of two Norton seeding races.
Race time is 8 AM Eastern Time and will be streamed live via www.usaluge.org.
The second seeding event is slated for November 7 in Park City, Utah. The United States fall World Cup team will be announced after these two races.
The Norton National Championships, not part of the team selection process, will be decided November 8 on the same 2002 Olympic course. The national singles races will be four heat competitions, with the second seeding race doubling as the first two heats of nationals. Doubles nationals will be two runs on November 8.
USA Luge members have been on the ice in Lillehammer, Norway and Lake Placid since early October enjoying excellent training conditions, accumulating ample runs to prepare for the World Cup season and 2016 World Championships, and testing equipment in the organization’s evolving technical program in conjunction with Norton, Dow and other partners.
Now, however, October 30 will be the first indication of where the team’s athletes stand with a month remaining before the start of the World Cup tour.
Competition is set for men’s and women’s singles as well as doubles, with highly contested races anticipated in each division.
Chris Mazdzer, Tucker West and Aidan Kelly, all recent Olympians, as well as Taylor Morris, are eyeballing the podium.
Mazdzer, of nearby Saranac Lake, N.Y., has been on the past two Olympic teams and finished the last two World Cup campaigns ranked fifth in the overall standings. A year ago, he medaled in four straight races, including a win in the Calgary Sprint World Cup.
West, a member of the Sochi Olympic team, lowered the track record twice in the Lake Placid World Cup race last December en route to winning the gold medal. The Ridgefield, Conn. athlete placed sixth on the season standings on the strength of three World Cup medals.
Kelly, of West Islip, N.Y., also qualified for Sochi but his post-Olympic year was curtailed by injuries and surgery.
Morris, of South Jordan, Utah, was in the mix for the Sochi team right up to the last run of the final World Cup qualifying race in December 2013.
The women’s seeding race will be equally competitive, led by 2014 Olympic bronze medalist and 2009 World Champion Erin Hamlin. Taking a quality over quantity approach to sliding, the 16-turn women’s layout has been among her favorites. In addition to winning her world title on Mount Van Hoevenberg, the Remsen, N.Y. native grabbed a silver medal in last December’s World Cup meet.
But she’ll be up against a deep U.S. women’s squad. Vancouver Olympian Julia Clukey of Augusta, Maine, always among the World Cup tour’s fastest starters, achieved a career-best World Cup silver medal on this track in 2013. She recently returned from training in Norway where Clukey capped the camp with a victory in the Lillehammer Cup.
Summer Britcher, of Glen Rock, Pennsylvania, has done the work over the off-season to improve her starts and is anxious to exceed her World Cup fourth place last season in Winterberg, Germany.
The 2014 Olympian will be joined in the field by Emily Sweeney, of Suffield, Conn., the 2013 Junior World Champion. Sweeney, who has refined her off-season training the past two years, made impressive gains last year and similarly finished fourth in the Koenigssee, Germany World Cup. That was her best tour result to date.
Raychel Germaine, of Roswell, Ga., is a graduating junior who has competed in the Youth Olympic Games and Junior World Championships. Germaine has been focusing all month on the seeding races.
The doubles field will present athletes with plenty of experience in luge, but not that much experience on their respective teams.
The top sled of Matt Mortensen, of Huntington Station, N.Y. and Jayson Terdiman of Berwick, Pennsylvania, seventh in World Cup racing last season, are entering their second year together. They contributed to three World Cup medals last year in the team relay.
Two other units, who began training together in Lake Placid at the end of last year, are racing in their first seasons.
Jake Hyrns, of Muskegon, Mich. and Anthony Espinoza, of Park City, Utah have had ample doubles experience, just not as a twosome. Also, Justin Krewson of Eastport, N.Y., joining with Andrew Sherk of Fort Washington, Pennsylvania, are in their first significant race together.
Upon conclusion of the event, the national team will move on to Park City, hitting the ice in the Wasatch on November 2.
After the final seeding event and the nationals, the group will depart for Europe and the final run-up to the World Cup season opener in Igls, Austria, outside Innsbruck, on November 28-29.
A week later, the tour comes to Lake Placid for racing on December 4-5, followed by Park City on December 11-12.