Annual awards announced at USA Luge Assembly

Aug. 25, 2015, 11:45 a.m. (ET)

LAKE PLACID, N.Y. - At the annual USA Luge Assembly, held on August 22 at the Conference Center in Lake Placid, the organization announced the following individual and team awards, dating back to 2014 where appropriate.

The 2015 Male Athlete of the Year is Tucker West, of Ridgefield, Conn. West made noteworthy strides internationally last year, capturing three World Cup medals, including a victory in Lake Placid.

The Female Athlete of the Year is Erin Hamlin of Remsen, N.Y., who captured her first World Cup gold medal to accompany a pair of silver medals on the 2014-2015 season. The Sochi bronze medal winner and 2009 World Champion finished fifth in the overall 2015 World Cup standings.

The Team of the Year was comprised of singles racers Emily Sweeney, of Suffield, Conn. and Chris Mazdzer, of Saranac Lake, N.Y., with the doubles team of Matt Mortensen, of Huntington Station, N.Y. and Jayson Terdiman, of Berwick, Pa.

The quartet was selected for their World Cup silver medal in the Koenigssee, Germany World Cup team relay.

In 2014, Mazdzer captured Male Athlete of the Year, with a fifth place finish in the World Cup standings. His season was highlighted by two World Cup silver medal efforts.

Hamlin’s 2014 Olympic bronze medal, and a women’s team best sixth place in the World Cup rankings, secured the Female Athlete of the Year.

A team relay silver medal in Park City nailed down the 2014 Team of the Year honor for Kate Hansen, of La Canada, Calif. and Mazdzer in singles, with Mortensen and Preston Griffall, of Salt Lake City, Utah in doubles.

The 2015 Junior Athletes of the Year are Elijah Pedriani, of New Haven, Vt. and Brittney Arndt, of Park City, Utah.

In 2014, the Junior Athletes of the Year were West and Summer Britcher, of Glen Rock, Pa. The two collaborated as part of the team relay foursome that grabbed the silver medal at the World Junior Championships.

The 2015 Sam Venezia Award, for volunteer spirit, recognizes individuals who give to the sport but ask for nothing in return. The honorees are Chuck Yanke, owner and chairman of Vulcan GMS, and his wife Sandi Yanke.

The Yankes, who reside in the suburbs of Milwaukee, have been involved with USA Luge since 1988 and have become more than suppliers of custom precision tools. They have supported the team beyond the parameters of the official agreement.

The John Jenkins Award, named after the founder of the Adirondack Luge Club who was also a pioneer in luge in the United States, honors individuals for their passion for the sport. The 2015 winner is Pete Gillwald of Park City, Utah. This award was originally established by 1980 luge Olympian Ty Danco.

The Justin Matarese Award remembers Justin’s love for luge while recognizing the young athlete with the most stick-to-it-iveness. The 2015 honoree is Duncan Segger of Lake Placid, who continues to train and compete while battling Hodgkins Lymphoma. Duncan won medals last year at the Empire State Winter Games as well as the USA Luge Norton Junior National Championships.

The Most Improved Junior Award for 2015 goes to Arndt and Pedriani.

The 2014 winners were Jake Farquharson of Park City and Justin Taylor of Lake Placid, N.Y.

With consideration to a new Board of Directors and a complete overhaul of the organization’s governance and by-laws, the 2014 awards were postponed for a year.