LAKE PLACID — An hour after winning her first Norton U.S. National Luge Championship on Sunday morning in Lake Placid, Kate Hansen still was not sure what she had done; Chris Mazdzer, who tied Tucker West to the thousandth of a second a year ago, took the title solo over West this time; and Jake Hyrns with Andrew Sherk, who lost the national doubles crown last fall on a sled disqualification, made amends and slid to their first championship.
The three national championship sleds also won the seeding race that was held concurrently on a warm, sunny autumn day on Mount Van Hoevenberg.
“I pulled out some really great runs that I didn’t know I had in me,” said Hansen, the 2008 Junior World Champion from La Canada, Calif. Her three individual heats were unmatched by Julia Clukey, who finished second, and Erin Hamlin, who placed third.
“I’m pretty emotional about it. It’s a big deal,” continued Hansen, who was nearly 2-tenths of a second clear of the field. “I haven’t won anything in a long time. This was a long time coming.”
Hansen’s first two heats – 45.156 and 44.980 seconds - totaled 1 minute, 30.136 seconds to crown her national champion. A third heat, which was part of a seeding race, was also tops. Hansen took her two better of the three runs to also claim victory in the seeding event.
With only one more seeding race Oct. 20 in Park City, Utah these results place Hansen in an advantageous position to make the United States fall World Cup team.
“The sled was really running and I was ready to do it. I wasn’t timid or scared. I just went for it,” she concluded.
Mazdzer’s two runs topped the men’s field to not only claim the Norton championship, but the seeding race, too. In both runs the 2010 Olympian from Saranac Lake, surrendered approximately .06 of a second at the start of each heat to West, before overtaking the youngster down the track.
Mazdzer was timed in 53.266 and 53.232 for an aggregate clocking of 1:46.498. He did not take a third heat and let the first two attempts stand as his runs for the seeding race. Like Clukey and Hamlin, Mazdzer was also pre-qualified for the World Cup team.
“I kind of viewed myself as the underdog today,” Mazdzer told the Associated Press. “I like to put myself in the mentality where I’m the underdog and I like to catch everyone else. I think that really carried over to today.”
When asked later in the day, he added, “I try for perfection each time. Today I left a little on the hill, but I fixed the mistakes that I made. In the second run out of curve seven, I came down abruptly and nearly popped my face shield. I caught it with my chin.”
West, from Ridgefield, Conn., has been a talent on the rise for the past few seasons. The 18 year old was part of the gold medal winning relay team at the 2012 Youth Olympic Games, shared this title last fall and has won the USA Luge Start Championships three consecutive years.
His second place effort was timed in 1:46.612, while Taylor Morris, of South Jordan, Utah, collected the bronze medal in 1:46.922.
Hyrns and Sherk did not dominate both heats in doubles, but their tenth of a second lead over Matt Mortensen and Preston Griffall in the first leg held up for the victory.
A year ago Hyrns, of Muskegon, Mich. and Sherk, of Fort Washington, Pa., seemingly had the gold medal pocketed. But their pockets got picked when officials detected a sled violation leading to a disqualification.
“I thought about it yesterday,” admitted Hyrns. “I called Bill (Tavares, assistant coach) up and asked him to come over and make sure the steels were good. We had them tested here and were told it was okay.”
The Oct. 20 seeding race – the final such event prior to the announcement of the fall World Cup group – will conclude the end of a week of training on the 2002 Olympic track in Park City, Utah. That contingent will depart Utah on Oct. 21 for continued training in Europe, followed by a week (Nov. 1-7) on the 2014 Olympic course in Sochi.
The World Cup season commences Nov. 16-17 in Lillehammer, Norway. There will be five World Cup meets prior to Christmas, concluding in Park City in mid-December. At that time the 10 members of the U.S. Olympic Luge Team (three men’s singles, three women’s singles and two doubles teams) will be confirmed.
NORTON US NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP FLASH RESULTS
Men’s singles: 1) Chris Mazdzer, 1:46.498; 2) Tucker West, 1:46.612; 3) Taylor Morris, 1:46.922
Women’s singles: 1) Kate Hansen, 1:30.136; Julia Clukey, 1:30.326; 3) Erin Hamlin, 1:30.386
Doubles: 1) Jake Hyrns/Andrew Sherk, 1:30.145; Matt Mortensen/Preston Griffall, 1:30.210; 3) Christian Niccum/Jayson Terdiman, 1:30.493