Britcher, West win USA Luge start championships
LAKE PLACID — Three-time Olympians Summer Britcher and Tucker West held onto their singles titles Friday, Aug. 18 during the annual USA Luge Start Championships in Lake Placid at the team headquarters on Church Street.
This was West’s 11th win at the championships, surpassing the record of 10 wins he shared with former USA Luge athlete Ashley (Hayden) Walden of Lake Placid.
“It feels great,” West said. “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.”
For Britcher, it was her seventh championship win since 2015.
“I felt pretty solid today and I’m really happy with my results,” Britcher said. “I’m working really hard and excited to see how that pays off in the World Cup season.”
2022 Olympians Zack DiGregorio and Sean Hollander were champions in men’s doubles, while Chevonne Forgan and Sophie Kirkby earned their first title in women’s doubles.
“We threw down two runs, but the first one was a bit slower,” Kirkby said. “On the second one, we picked it up and threw down some good reaction starts. I’m proud of our performance.”
It took two tie-breakers for DiGregorio and Hollander to edge out Marcus Mueller/Ansel Haugsjaa for first place. Both teams posted three-run combined times of 11.24 seconds. The first tiebreaker was the fastest time in the traditional start, but both teams posted 3.41 seconds, so officials used the reaction start time to determine the winner. DiGregorio and Hollander were faster by .03 seconds.
“The first start wasn’t what we wanted, but we were pretty happy with the reaction and the second start,” Hollander said. “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,” DiGregorio added. “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.”
In all, 23 athletes competed in the start championships. Members of the Junior National Team were invited to join the National Team at the USA Luge start facility: Eight in men’s singles, five in women’s singles, three men’s doubles teams and two women’s doubles teams.
Two-time Olympian Emily Sweeney of Lake Placid served as the event’s emcee, providing color and commentary to the crowd. She did not compete in the start championships, as she is recovering from shoulder surgery, but she said she expects to be ready for this winter’s World Cup tour.
The goal of the start championships is to assess the 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 championships 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.
¯ Tucker West (Ridgefield, Connecticut), National Team, 10.67 seconds
¯ Jonny Gustafson (Massena), National Team, 10.95 seconds
¯ Marcus Mueller (Brookfield, Wisconsin), Junior National Team, 11.31 seconds
Also competing were Matt Greiner, Aidan Mueller, Seiya Kobayashi, Gavin Davis and Hunter Harris.
¯ Summer Britcher (Glen Rock, Pennsylvania), National Team, 11.72 seconds
¯ Ashley Farquharson (Park City, Utah), National Team, 12.14 seconds
¯ Elana Morrison (Twin Lake, Michigan), National Team, 12.26 seconds
Also competing were Delaney Duncan and Macey Shomaker.
¯ Zack DiGregorio (Medway, Massachusetts) and Sean Hollander (Lake Placid), National Team, 11.24 seconds
¯ Marcus Mueller (Brookfield, Wisconsin)/Ansel Haugsjaa (Framingham, Massachusetts), Junior National Team, 11.24 seconds
¯ Dana Kellogg (Chesterfield, Massachusetts) and Frank Ike (Lititz, Pennsylvania), National Team, 11.55 seconds
¯ Chevonne Forgan (Chelmsford, Massachusetts) and Sophie Kirkby (Ray Brook), National Team, 11.98 seconds
¯ Maya Chan (Chicago, Illinois) and Elana Morrison (Twin Lake, Michigan), National Team, 12.23 seconds
Always held during the late summer and early autumn months, the start championship competition begins the countdown to the team’s return to outdoor ice and training camps before the World Cup tour.
Most of the USA Luge athletes are training in Lake Placid right now in the refrigerated luge start training facility on Church Street and the U.S. Olympic/Paralympic Training Center on Old Military Road.
The National Team is expected to start sliding on tracks in late October in Europe before the World Cup season begins in early December.
This year’s World Cup tour begins in Lake Placid on the Mount Van Hoevenberg track and will be held on Dec. 8 and 9 before moving to Whistler, British Columbia the following weekend. The World Cup tour ends in early March on the track in Sigulda, Latvia. Other stops will be at Winterberg, Germany; Innsbruck, Austria; Altenberg, Germany; and Oberhof, Germany.