LAKE PLACID, N.Y. – With a snow squall moving through Lake Placid during the race, Tucker West, Emily Sweeney and the doubles team of Matt Mortensen and Jayson Terdiman emerged victorious in the first of two Norton seeding events Friday to finalize the USA Luge World Cup team.
The second and deciding event takes place November 7 in Park City, Utah.
L to R: Mazdzer, West, Morris
West, a member of the Sochi Olympic team, posted the best start and final times of both runs down Mount Van Hoevenberg, to turn back two-time Olympian Chris Mazdzer by nearly one-third of a second.
“Today went well. Training has been going well the past three weeks,” said the Union College student. “I’ve worked on my lines, position, the sled….things seem to be running. Ice conditions were very good. We had strong winds last night which typically makes for lousy track conditions but the track crew did a great job getting ready for us. It was fast and fun….smooth.”
About 13 months ago, West won the Lake Placid World Cup race, marking the first victory for an American man since Wendel Suckow’s gold medal in February 1997. In the process, West lowered the track record in both heats. He’s also won seeding races and national championships here.
“You have to take control of this track,” he continued. “A lot of people let the track take control of them. It’s a very technical track which means you have to hit your drives precisely. The name of the game is to stay on top of those drives. As long as you can do that and hit all your drives you’ll be good to go.”
The winner, from Ridgefield, Conn., posted heat times of 51.968 and 51.790 seconds for a combined time of 1 minute, 43.758 seconds. Mazdzer, of Saranac Lake, N.Y., totaled 1:44.084. Third place went to Taylor Morris of South Jordan, Utah in 1:44.712.
Mazdzer finished fifth in last year’s World Cup standings on the strength of four consecutive singles medals in mid season. The seeding race will help him prepare for the World Cup opener in Igls, Austria at the end of November.
“What you can interpret from this is how we compare to each other, where each person has their difficulties,” stated Mazdzer. “We’ve all had plenty of runs here. The track is built really easy so we’re really consistent. I know that my start is far behind Tucker’s. I’m losing everything in the first three curves. After that I’m maintaining. So I know for me, it’s the start, the start curve and getting into my sled. That’s what I need to fix.”
Aidan Kelly of West Islip, N.Y. took fourth, with Junior National Team member Jonny Gustafson, of Massena, N.Y. fifth.
Sweeney upended 2014 Olympic bronze medalist and 2009 World Champion Erin Hamlin. Sweeney’s times of 44.408 and 44.261 totaled 1:28.669, to Hamlin’s 1:28.928. The bronze medalist was graduating junior Raychel Germaine, of Roswell, Ga., with two legs totaling 1:29.320.
“I’m definitely happy. I hope it continues and translates to other tracks,” said Sweeney, who also had the best run times, despite her hand slipping as she paddled out of the start in the second run. “I won’t get too ecstatic yet. It’s still October. I’m glad what was happening in training is translating into the races. I’m more confident this year with my sliding and I’m glad it’s not false confidence.”
“The conditions were great,” added Hamlin. “The weather stayed cold enough that it turned to snow instead of rain. We’d definitely rather have that. Clear and cold would be ideal, but beggars can’t be choosers.
“The track was in great shape. We slid yesterday morning and the track was surprisingly fast (despite warm wind and rain) so we knew today we had a good chance of having really good ice. It was smooth. It felt great.”
Vancouver Olympian Julia Clukey, of Augusta, Maine, who has collected World Cup bronze medals on the Lake Placid track in singles and the team relay, placed fourth.
Sochi Olympian Summer Britcher, of Glen Rock, Pennsylvania, third after the opening leg behind Sweeney and Hamlin, was disqualified in the final run for an equipment malfunction.
L to R: Krewson, Sherk, Terdiman, Mortensen, Espinoza, Hyrns
Mortensen, of Huntington Station, N.Y., and Terdiman, of Berwick, Pennsylvania, 2014 Olympians with different doubles teammates, won the seeding race by over 0.4 of a second.
The gold medalists were timed in 1:29.231 on heat times of 44.668 and 44.563. They made their World Cup debut last season and finished seventh in the standings.
“We had a gold medal performance so you can never be too upset with that,” said Terdiman. “We did pull some faster start times, but we’re still not where we want to be quite yet. We still have a month before the World Cup fully gets underway. So we’re really going to try to make some progress in that aspect of our sliding. But you’re never too upset when you walk away with a win.”
Justin Krewson, of Eastport, N.Y., and Andrew Sherk, of Fort Washington, Pennsylvania, collected the silver medal in 1:29.659.
Jake Hyrns, of Muskegon, Mich., and Anthony Espinoza, of Park City, Utah, had the bronze medal time of 1:29.869.
Team members had no time to relax and reflect afterward on the day’s racing as equipment needed to be packed and loaded for the two-day U-Haul drive to Park City. The team will hit the ice Monday evening on the 2002 Olympic track.