LAKE PLACID, N.Y. – Brittney Arndt, of Park City, Utah, won Saturday’s first of two seeding races at Mount Van Hoevenberg and is halfway toward winning her second straight Norton USA Luge Junior National Championship.
Another seeding event is set for Sunday morning, with the combination of the four runs also producing a national champion in the three-races-in-two format.
Arndt is racing up in class. She captured last weekend’s seeding series and Norton Youth National Championship.
Above left to right: Jonny Gustafson and Brittney Arndt
Jonny Gustafson, fresh from his contribution to a World Junior Championship silver medal in the team relay, is in a similar situation among junior men, riding the momentum from his notable international achievement last month. He, too, is searching for his second straight junior title.
“I definitely think so,” said the Massena, N.Y. racer who turned 19 today. “That was my first big medal competing in a world race and it helped me be more confident for this race.”
Left: Riley Stohr sliding the chicanes in Lake Placid, NY
His margin over Riley Stohr, of Whitehall, Mich., was nearly 0.3 of a second over the two heats, with Elijah Pedriani, of New Haven, Vt., a distant third.
Arndt had the two fastest legs of the day, and totaled 1 minute, 29.795 seconds. She bettered Grace Weinberg, of Pittsfield, Vt., by 0.5 of a second.
“During training this week, we had some really good ice, great conditions,” stated Arndt. “I was going PBs (personal best times) every day. I was just getting faster and faster which was really good for me. So I came into this weekend hoping that I could put down the runs (in the race) that I put down (in training) this week.”
Weinberg, a teammate of Gustafson in that silver medal accomplishment at the world juniors, was third after one heat before overtaking Ashley Farquharson for second place.
Weinberg was timed in 1:30.314. Farquharson, also of Park City, settled for third. The Youth Olympic Games competitor registered 1:30.450 for the bronze medal.
Gustafson, the fastest starter on the Junior World Cup tour, showed that form on his home track, and then parlayed it into the best heat times of the race. He recorded 1:41.422 on a cold morning that gradually turned clear and warmer.
“The runs were both fairly clean, really good runs,” he stated. “The second run was a little sloppier than the first but I’m happy with both of them.”
Stohr, who was 11th in his World Cup debut last year in Lake Placid, had the silver medal-winning time of 1:41.720, with Pedriani next in 1:43.288.
Several years ago, to acclimate singles racers to the Olympic format, USA Luge coaches turned nationals into a four heat competition over two days. It brings luge’s ultimate mental game into play.
“I distract myself with different things,” said Gustafson, of the 24 hours between runs two and three. “Playing video games, hanging out with friends, doing my steel work and then just getting ready for tomorrow.”
Arndt already showed that capability a week ago in winning the youth crown despite a foggy face shield that nearly turned the third run into disaster. As a result, she has a good feeling about racing in Lake Placid.
“I have a lot of fun and can relax really well here, and I’m just confident with my lines.”
Arndt hopes that will translate into another Norton national championship.
Sunday’s race time for the junior nationals is 9 AM. The USA Luge website (www.usaluge.org) will carry live top to bottom coverage using the venue’s camera system.
Above left: Stohr, Gustafson and Pedriani. Above right: Weinberg, Arndt and Farquharson
Above left to right: Grace Weinberg and Ashley Farquharson at the start
Above: The women's field takes the truck ride up the hill for the next run.