WEST MAKES USA LUGE HISTORY BY SECURING AN 11th NORTON START CHAMPIONSHIP TITLE
by Lauren Howe
Britcher wins women’s singles, DiGregorio/Hollander take men’s doubles,
Forgan/Kirkby lead women’s doubles
LAKE PLACID, N.Y. –Three-time Olympian Tucker West made history during today’s annual Norton USA Luge Start Championships, securing his 11th win and establishing himself yet again as the fastest starter on the 2023 men’s National Team. Before today, the three-time World Cup race winner was tied with Ashley (Hayden) Walden, with 10 start championships a piece.
The annual competition dates back nearly 30 years as a way of assessing athletes' off-season progress in the critical start technique. Luge races begin from handles in a static start at the top of the course. The start championship format consists of three timed runs, with the lowest cumulative time taking the win. The first two starts are traditional starts, and the third start is a reaction-type start, the same system used in the team relay event.
West (Ridgefield, Conn.) posted a three-run total of 10.67 seconds, beating Jonny Gustafson (Massena, N.Y.), who finished .28 seconds behind with a time of 10.95. Marcus Mueller, a member of the Junior National Team, was third in 11.31 seconds.
“It feels great,” said West. “Training is going well this summer. We are in a weird part of our cycle as this is an earlier start [championships] than we would usually do, but it feels good to pull a personal best today. Summer training is going well this year, and everything is going according to plan. We are feeling very confident in our technology program this year, and I think we made a big jump forward. I’m excited to see where our results land.”
Three-time Olympian Summer Britcher defended her 2022 title, capturing the women’s championship for the seventh time since 2015. Britcher (Glen Rock, Pa.), the most decorated singles World Cup winner in USA Luge history, edged out 2022 Olympian Ashley Farquharson (Park City, Utah) by .42 seconds. Britcher’s time was 11.72 seconds, while Farquharson’s three run time was 12.14 seconds. Elana Morrison, who is graduating from the junior ranks, pulled two consecutive personal best times, finishing in 12.26 seconds.
“I felt pretty solid today and I’m really happy with my results,” said Britcher. “I’m working really hard and excited to see how that pays off in the World Cup season.”
The men’s doubles race required two ties-breakers to determine a winner. The teams of Zack DiGregorio/Sean Hollander and Marcus Mueller (Brookfield, Wisc.)/Ansel Haugsjaa (Framingham, Mass.) both posted three-run combined times of 11.24 seconds. The first tie breaker was the fastest time in the traditional start, but when both teams posted 3.41 seconds as fastest traditional start times, the reaction start time was used to determine the winner. DiGregorio (Medway, Mass.) and Hollander (Lake Placid, N.Y.) were faster by .03 seconds and crowned the champions for the first time in their career.
The newly formed team of Dana Kellogg (Chesterfield, Mass.) and Frank Ike (Lititz, Pa.) placed third with a time of 11.55 seconds.
“The first start wasn’t what we wanted, but we were pretty happy with the reaction and the second start,” said Beijing Olympian Hollander. “It was nice to be pushed by (Muller/Haugsjaa) but competition makes us all better.”
“It’s great to see young (athletes) like Marcus and Ansel coming up now and they really pushed us,” added 2022 Olympian DiGregorio. “We had a small mistake in that first run and we needed to get a really good reaction time to beat them, but it was close the whole way.”
The women’s doubles team of Chevonne Forgan (Chelmsford, Mass.) and Sophie Kirkby (Ray Brook, N.Y.) were crowned winners in women’s doubles with a total time of 11.98. The duo of Maya Chan (Chicago, Il.) and Elana Morrison (Twin Lake, Mich.) took the silver in 12.23 seconds.
Chan’s regular doubles teammate, Reannyn Weiler (Whitesboro, N.Y.) did not compete.
Forgan and Kirkby used a personal best start time of 3.63 seconds to slide to victory.
“We threw down two runs but the first one was a bit slower,” said Kirkby. “On the second one, we picked it up and threw down some good reaction starts. I’m proud of our performance.”
Always held during the late summer and early autumn months, the competition begins the countdown to the team’s return to outdoor ice and the crucial training camps that enable the athletes to build a deep run count prior to the start of the EBERSPÄCHER World Cup tour.
The National Team is expected to hit the ice in late October for pre-season training in Europe. World Cup action will resume December 8-9 in Lake Placid, when the nine-race season kicks off. World Championships are slated to take place in Altenberg, Germany on January 26-28, 2024. Currently, the majority of the team are training in Lake Placid, working in the refrigerated luge start training facility and U.S. Olympic/Paralympic Training Center.