LAKE PLACID - Ashley Walden won her ninth luge start championship Saturday at the USA Luge Start Training Complex in Lake Placid.
Chris Mazdzer of Saranac Lake took the men's title, while the doubles team of Matt Mortensen and Preston Griffall won the doubles crown.
Walden, a 2002 Olympian and current national team athlete from Westborough, Mass., won with a two-heat time of 3.588 seconds over last year's winner Julia Clukey of Augusta, Maine. Clukey, a 2010 Olympian, registered a time of 3.596, in front of third-place finisher and 2009 World Champion Erin Hamlin, who stopped the clock in 3.699.
"The start is really my strength," said Walden, who dominated the competition from 1998 to 2004. "I was just really trying to focus on my technique, since I had back surgery in April. I feel great and my back is much better than it was a year ago." Walden's last victory in the start championships came in 2007.
Saranac Lake's Chris Mazdzer, who finished 13th at the 2010 Olympics, edged defending start championship winner Bengt Walden of Westborough, Mass. with a time of 3.432 compared to Walden's time of 3.470.
Aaron Barge, a member of the U.S. Junior National Team from Saranac Lake, was third in 3.492.
In the doubles competition, the duo of Matt Mortensen of Huntington Station and Preston Griffall of Salt Lake City, Utah came through as the only repeat winners from last year's race. Mortensen and Griffall clocked a 3.474, enough to edge their teammates Shane Hook and Zac Clark.
Mortensen and Griffall both recently completed basic training for the U.S. Army and resumed luge training together just days before the competition.
"Experience had everything to do with this race," said Griffall, a 2006 Olympian. "I only got here (in Lake Placid) four days ago and Matt and I only had two sessions of training before the race. We had to get in sync real quick."
The team will formally open their season Friday when the luge run at Mt. Van Hoevenberg opens. The luge team will hit the ice at 9 a.m.