USA luge athletes compete in the national championships
LAKE PLACID — USA Luge athletes kicked off the sliding season with the 2023 Norton National Champions in Lake Placid on Saturday, Nov. 11. The championships, held at Mount Van Hoevenberg, consisted of four disciplines under cloudy skies and temperatures in the mid-20s.
Zack DiGregorio and Sean Hollander won the men’s doubles event, while Chevonne Forgan and Sophie Kirkby won the women’s doubles race. In singles racing, Jonny Gustafson and Ashley Farquharson won the men’s and women’s divisions, respectively.
The cold weather brought hard ice and challenging conditions as the top luge athletes in the United States negotiated the Mount Van Hoevenberg luge course.
Warm weather for most of the past two weeks made track maintenance a challenge. With a relatively bumpy course, USA Luge officials opted to allow athletes to use their best two out of three runs to determine their total run time.
DiGregorio, of Medway, Massachusetts, and Hollander, of Lake Placid, took the men’s doubles win in 1 minute, 29.859 seconds. Despite having competed in the 2022 Olympics and at the U23 World Champions, this was DiGregorio and Hollander’s first time competing in a national event as a doubles team. The pair came together months before the Beijing Olympics.
The reigning Junior World Championship bronze medalist team of Marcus Mueller of Brookfield, Wisconsin and Ansel Haugsjaa of Framingham, Massachusetts finished in second with a time of 1:30.666. Dana Kellogg of Chesterfield, Massachusetts and Frank Ike of Lititz, Pennsylvannia made their race debut, placing third in 1:31.746. Kellogg was partnered with Duncan Segger of Lake Placid beginning in 2016 but is now competing with Ike. Segger is focusing on his studies in Utah.
In the women’s doubles event, 2022 World Championship bronze medalists Forgan, of Chelmsford, Massachusetts, and Kirkby, of Ray Brook, posted a two-run combined time of 1:32.726. The doubles teams of Maya Chan of Chicago, Illinois and Reannyn Weiler of Whitesboro, along with Summer Britcher and Emily Sweeney, were on the start list but did not compete. Chan and Weiler crashed in Friday’s training and in an abundance of caution, decided not to race.
Britcher, of Glen Rock, Pennsylvannia, who has more World Cup wins under her belt than any other woman in USA Luge history, was not able to compete in the women’s single event as well, because of a personal matter.
Sweeney, of Lake Placid, was also out for the singles event. She chose to rest her neck while focusing on the upcoming World Cup season. The 2019 World Championship bronze medalist still contends with lingering issues after a crash at the 2018 Olympics.
Farquharson, an Olympian from Park City, Utah, earned her first singles title with a time of 1:30.659. The next two spots on the podium were occupied by members of the Junior National Team in a tight race.
Sophia Gordon of Sussex, Wisconsin was second in 1:32.158 and Emma Erickson of Park City, Utah was third with a time of 1:32.181.
On the men’s side, Gustafson, a Massena native and 2022 Olympian, was first with a time of 1:45.811. This was his second national title. Former Saranac Lake resident and 2018 Olympic silver medalist Chris Mazdzer of Salt Lake City, Utah was second in 1:46.169 and Hunter Harris of East Fairfield, Vermont was third in 1:46.340.
Three-time Olympian Tucker West of Ridgefield, Connecticut, one of the pre-race favorites to win, posted the second-fastest heat of the day but failed to finish his next two heats.
Following the national championships, the USA luge athletes will compete in an international start competition in Lake Placid on Dec. 1. The event will take place at the USA Luge headquarters and is open to the public.