Hollander, Segger race to Norton luge national titles
LAKE PLACID — On the final day of the 2017-2018 racing season, USA Luge crowned two Norton Junior National Champions in singles on Sunday and a youth national title in doubles.
Ashley Farquharson, of Park City, Utah, took her 7-tenths of a second victory in Saturday’s first of two seeding races and augmented it Sunday, defeating the field by over one second from the women’s and doubles World Cup start height.
“I’m super excited about it,” Farquharson said. “This is the last year it really matters for me. Next year I’ll be aging out so I can race but it won’t be as important, so I really like to have this year just in the bag and I know that I can do it no matter what.”
Farquharson’s second seeding race time was 1 minute, 30.691 seconds. Her four runs over the two days totaled 3:00.738 and gave her the Norton national gold medal. She had the best times in every leg in winning for the second straight year.
In capturing both seeding races, the former Youth Olympic Games athlete collected the maximum 200 seeding points and solidified her position on the Junior National Team for 2018-2019.
Grace Weinberg, of Pittsfield, Vermont, was second in a time of 3:01.812. Weinberg had the best start and start curve time in three of the four heats. The bronze medal was taken by Chevonne Forgan, of Chelmsford, Massachusetts, in 3:02.949.
The women’s field did not include Brittney Arndt, also of Park City, who sat out the spring series with chronic shoulder and neck ailments. She was seventh at the Junior World Championships last month.
The season-ending events also occurred exactly one month after Chris Mazdzer raced to an Olympic silver medal in South Korea, the first ever for USA Luge in men’s Olympic singles. Sean Hollander won’t get a chance to be that first American man to achieve this, but he’s viewed as someone who could continue that legacy in some future Games.
The Lake Placid athlete came from behind to capture the second seeding race over Zach DiGregorio, of Medway, Massachusetts. Hollander went on grab the Norton national gold medal for the four-run event, highlighted by the fastest legs in two of his four attempts.
“It’s (the title) a really good confidence boost,” Hollander said. “I just missed out on the title last year and so this is a huge confidence boost.”
Hollander’s combined time down the technical Mount Van Hoevenberg track, from just below the men’s World Cup start location, was 3:28.349. DiGregorio’s silver medal time was 3:28.680, followed by bronze medalist Sam Eckert, of Wilmington, in 3:29.502.
The 2018 champion with the 200 points that accompany two seeding race victories, and DiGregorio with 170 seeding points, have automatically qualified for the 2018 Junior National Team.
The doubles event kicked off from start four (between curves nine and 10) and saw the twosome of Dana Kellogg and Duncan Segger run away from a field that included a women’s doubles team both days.
Kellogg, of Williamsburg, Massachusetts, and Segger, of Lake Placid, took the seeding race that doubled as the one-day national title race. Their two-heat time of 1:29.273 outdistanced Luke Voegli and Michael O’Gara, who posted 1:30.753. The bronze medalists were Sean Rogers, of Fanwood, New Jersey, and Jett Arp, of Burlington, Vermont, in 1:31.294.
In the five-sled division, Maya Chan, of Chicago, and Reannyn Weiler, of Whitesboro, New York, took fourth place after Saturday’s bronze medal.
With the top two doubles teams ineligible for seeding points as they are moving out of the youth division, Chan and Weiler won the seeding battle in the second tiebreaker (fastest individual run). They were deadlocked in points with Rogers and Arp.
The female participation is significant as there is an international movement afoot to bring women’s doubles into the Olympic program, possibly as early as 2022. The event will be part of the 2020 Youth Olympic Games at the home of the IOC in Lausanne, Switzerland, with the luge races taking place on the naturally built ice track in St. Moritz.
As the season now comes to a close, USA Luge leadership and coaches, on their respective to-do lists, will include the monitoring of the aforementioned new event, the naming of its various teams for the fall of 2018, the continuance of its technical advancements, off-season recruiting with the White Castle Slider Search, the execution of its physical training and start training programs, attendance at international federation meetings and more.