Top luge racers in the Adirondacks for this weekend's Norton National Championships
LAKE PLACID, N.Y. - With less than 16 months until the flame is lit during the opening ceremony in Sochi, Russia for the 2014 Olympic Winter Games, the athletes of USA Luge will begin their 2012-2013 competitive season on October 26-27 with the Norton National Championships.
The races will take place at the Olympic Sports Complex in Lake Placid, N.Y. at 9 AM daily, with live and upgraded action coverage on www.usaluge.org via West World Media.
Erin Hamlin of Remsen, N.Y. looks to win her sixth-consecutive Norton National Championship women's title.
Hamlin, a 2-time Olympian in addition to her world title, seen here in World Cup action last winter
The 2009 World Champion should expect challenges to come from youngsters Emily Sweeney of Suffield, Conn. and Kate Hansen of La Canada, Calif., along with veteran Julia Clukey.
Hansen posted a career-best result at the Oberhof World Cup event in January, while Sweeney is the 2011 Norton National Championship silver medalist and a member of the National Guard. Clukey of Augusta, Maine is also looking consistent once again after a long road back from a spring 2011 surgical procedure to relieve the symptoms caused by Arnold Chiari syndrome.
Matt Mortensen of Huntington Station, N.Y. and Preston Griffall of Salt Lake City, Utah will do battle with Jake Hyrns of Muskegon, Mich. and Andrew Sherk of Fort Washington, Pa. in the doubles discipline.
Mortensen and Griffall, like Sweeney, are members of the National Guard and the Army's World Class Athlete Program, which allows them to train while serving their country. Sherk and Hyrns were podium regulars during the 2011-12 Junior World Cup season until an injury cut their season short.
Shane Hook of Grapevine, Texas and Zac Clark of Salt Lake City, Utah will also challenge for a top three slot. 2010 Olympic doubles sixth-place finisher Christian Niccum of Woodinville, Wash. and his teammate Jayson Terdiman of Berwick, Pa. will not compete as Niccum is still recovering from back surgery performed in April. Their target is to be back racing after the Christmas break.
In the men's singles competition, 2010 Olympic 13th place finisher Chris Mazdzer of Saranac Lake, N.Y. will look to defend his Norton title.
Mazdzer prepares for a training run in Lake Placid. Mirror Lake Inn co-owner Lisa Weibrecht was national luge champion in 1977.
Challenges will come from National Guard/ Army World Class Athlete Program racers Taylor Morris of South Jordan, Utah, Joe Mortensen of Huntington Station, N.Y., and Isaac Underwood of Skandia, Mich. Nick Gerardi of Queensbury, N.Y. hopes to challenge for a podium spot as he continues his comeback to the sport after a four-year absence.
Junior National Team athlete Tucker West of Ridgefield, Conn. can't be counted out, especially after winning the September 27 USA Luge Start Championship by .07 seconds, a significant amount over the distance of the race, and in a sport timed to the 1/1000th of a second. His teammate, Aidan Kelly, of West Islip, N.Y., is also a possible podium finisher.
Morris begins a run last week on the first day of on-ice training