USA LUGE Start Champions continue domination

Sept. 18, 2015, 9:50 p.m. (ET)

LAKE PLACID, N.Y. – Vancouver Olympian Julia Clukey and Sochi Olympic team member Tucker West won their respective divisions Friday night at the annual USA Luge Start Championships. Justin Krewson and Andrew Sherk, a new doubles team, captured the discipline title.

On a day where the temperature topped 80 degrees in Lake Placid, the event was held on the team’s artificially refrigerated start ramps. In the opening heat, the races incorporated the reaction start used in the team relay, followed by the traditional luge start technique in the final leg.

The VOD webcast is available at: www.ustream.tv/channel/usalugelive

It was Clukey’s team-leading eighth title, with West capturing his fourth championship.

“It’s always good to win….a great way to start the season,” said Clukey, who is also among the fastest starters on the international circuit. And while she was victorious here, she is eyeing the upcoming World Cup tour.

“It’s not fast enough for where it needs to be for the season. I’ll spend a lot of time here in October.

“I changed my training so much this off-season. It’s a step in the right direction and I’m excited I have a bit more time before the season.

Clukey, of Augusta, Maine, held off an improving Summer Britcher, of Glen Rock, Pa. to win by 0.02 of a second. Clukey clocked times of 1.615 and 1.436 seconds, for a total of 3.051 seconds. She was just 0.01 of a second faster than Britcher, a Sochi Olympian, in each run. The runner-up clocked 3.072, followed by 2014 Olympic bronze medalist and 2009 World Champion Erin Hamlin, of Remsen, N.Y., third, in 3.123.

After missing last fall’s start championship with a wrist injury, West, of Ridgefield, Conn., pulled the fastest reaction start and traditional start in the men’s field.

Above: Kelly, West, Gustafson and USA Luge CEO Jim Leahy

“I was battling a cold all week so it was good to see that my body was working,” said West, also among the best starters in the sport. “It was also good to see that summer training is paying off. Let’s hope it pays off in a great year.

“I was pretty explosive in the reaction start. I felt a good pop and speed, but my forte is the traditional start.”

The 2014 Olympian, who won the Lake Placid World Cup event last season among his three tour medals, was timed in 1.430 and 1.364, for a combined 2.794. He defeated Olympic teammate Aidan Kelly, of West Islip, N.Y., who posted 2.869. Jonny Gustafson, of Massena, N.Y., was next in 2.952.

Two-time Olympian Chris Mazdzer, of Saranac Lake, N.Y., did not compete as he was attending a board meeting of the International Luge Federation (FIL) in Salzburg, Austria. Mazdzer became a voting member of the FIL executive board earlier this year.

Two new doubles teams battled for victory, with Krewson of Eastport, N.Y. and Sherk, of Fort Washington, Pa., racing to the top.

Above: Sherk, Leahy and Krewson

The winners had run times of 1.565 and 1.378 for a total of 2.943. They bested Jake Hyrns, of Muskegon, Mich., and Anthony Espinoza, of Park City, Utah, who totaled 3.042.

“The times were pretty close to what we’ve been puling in training,” stated Sherk. “The reaction (start) was a little slower than we thought but it was okay.”

The top doubles team of Matt Mortensen, of Huntington Station, N.Y. and Jayson Terdiman, of Berwick, Pa., seventh in the World Cup standings last winter, were sidelined due to Mortensen’s U.S. Army commitment at this time.

National team members will continue pre-season preparation, with some athletes heading to Lillehammer, Norway for 10 days of training in early October.

Sliding will commence in Lake Placid October 8, weather permitting.