Arndt and Gustafson dominate
LAKE PLACID – The cream not only rose to the top over the weekend in Lake Placid, but it stayed there as Jonny Gustafson and Brittney Arndt completed their domination of the Norton Junior National Championships and seeding races Sunday.
Silver and bronze medalists also mirrored Saturday’s first seeding event as the luge races concluded in cold-weather conditions that moderated slightly as skies cleared.
Gustafson, of Massena, won both seeding competitions. The total of those four heats gave him his third Norton crown on the day after his 19th birthday.
Arndt, of Park City, Utah, also won both seeding races and collected her second straight junior national championship despite the fact that she’s still of youth age. Arndt also won last weekend’s Norton youth nationals.
“Everything just kind of comes naturally right now,” Arndt said. “Everything is slowing down. I don’t have to think a lot. You want to do as little as possible on the sled, and that’s really coming to my advantage.”
Arndt had the four fastest individual heats of the series to win both seeding races. The total of the four over the two days – 2 minutes, 59.052 seconds – gave her the national championship.
“The runs today were good,” Arndt said. “In the first run, I had some problems in curves 12 and 13, but other than that they were great.”
Grace Weinberg, of Pittsfield, Vermont, was second across the board both days. The team relay silver medalist at the recent Junior World Championships totaled 3:00.030. The bronze medals, in the two seeding races and national championship, were taken by Youth Olympic Games racer Ashley Farquharson in 3:00.947.
Gustafson has new-found confidence, the result of his contribution to the team relay silver medal at junior worlds with Weinberg, and more time working on his skills.
“I guess training at the OTC, keeping my mind open, and getting coached well by Fred (Zimny) and Tony (Benshoof) and just improving a little bit,” Gustafson said. “I think the big thing is my position (on the sled) has gotten better. Last year it was pretty bad. My head was up all the time. It was very un-aerodynamic. This year I was really working on pushing my head back.”
The St. Lawrence Valley resident who lives about two hours from the team’s Lake Placid headquarters, stretched his margin of victory to nearly 1.2 seconds. Gustafson was the quickest in all four legs over the two mornings. His combined time of 3:23.408 dominated the field.
Riley Stohr, of Whitehall, Michigan, took a trio of silver medals this weekend – second in both seeding races and runner-up in the national championship chase. Stohr, 11th on this Mount Van Hoevenberg course last winter in his World Cup debut, clocked 3:24.604.
Elijah Pedriani, of New Haven, Vermont, scored three bronze medals, including the nationals. He was timed in 3:27.214.
The weekend of USA Luge action brought the youth and junior seasons to a conclusion, with team coaches using this season’s results to help determine the composition of next year’s teams. Those announcements will be made May 2.