Kirkby, Hollander take titles
LAKE PLACID — The overnight leaders — Sophie Kirkby, Sean Hollander, Roan Thomas and Sophia Gordon — held on to their respective advantages Sunday at Mount Van Hoevenberg and claimed their respective Norton Youth National Luge Championships.
The final day included the second seeding races in each division; they were captured by Kirkby, Gordon, Ian Smith and Tomas Ziemiecki. The total of all four heats over the two days determined the Norton champions.
“It feels great knowing that I won the first day,” said Kirkby, who lives in Ray Brook. “But on the other hand, I knew I had to put the same amount of effort or even more the next day. I had to follow through even more and improve myself.”
Kirkby’s four heats totaled 3 minutes, 0.419 seconds, good enough for the Youth A victory by two-thirds of a second over Chevonne Forgan, of Chelmsford, Massachusetts. The bronze medal went to Joan Kemper, of Chicago, in 3:01.908.
In sweeping the weekend seeding events, Kirkby scored the maximum 200 points. Kemper and Delaney Duncan, of Park City, Utah, tied for second with 155.
Hollander held on for the gold medal in Youth A over Ian Smith, who closed quickly on a snowy, comfortable day. Hollander, from Lake Placid, finished third in the second seeding race behind Smith and Sam Eckert of nearby Wilmington, but had four legs that gave him the championship-winning total of 3:02.113.
“Today didn’t go that great, but I knew I built up a good lead yesterday and I was able to come out on top,” stated the winner.
Smith, of Carlisle, Massachusetts, put down the two best runs on Sunday and took the silver medal in 3:02.467. Sam Day, of Wantagh, picked up the bronze medal in 3:02.929.
“Yesterday, I was really nervous on that first run. That was really the big difference,” Smith said. “I had a really bad upper track and that cost me a lot of time. The second run was good, but I couldn’t really recover. Today, I had a better mindset and that helped me relax all the way down.”
Smith was the points winner for the two seeding races, collecting 185 points, while Day had 170 and Eckert accumulated 135. Hollander, as he graduates from Youth to Juniors, was not eligible for seeding points.
Thomas, from Park City, settled for second place in the final seeding race, but his four-run aggregate time of 3:06.702 was good enough for the Norton title in Youth B. Russell Foster, of Mamaroneck, won silver in 3:07.018, followed by Siemiecki, of Mason, N.H., third, in 3:07.165.
“It felt nice to sleep on the lead, but it’s kind of nerve-wracking because you have to do just as well the next day,” said Thomas, who will move up to Youth A and could not tally the points from this race.
Ziemiecki and Foster tied with 185 seeding points, while River Morrison, of Twin Lake, Mich., was third with 140 points.
“Yesterday, my first run was great, but in the second run I got a little too distracted. I hit the wall coming out of (curve) 12 and that ruined my run. But today, I got into the right mindset and sent it down the track.”
The Youth B women’s Norton National Champion was Sophia Gordon, of Sussex, Wisconsin, who threw down the four fastest individual legs of the race. Her time of 3:03.208 ran away from the field.
“I was happy knowing I had the lead,” Gordon said. “But I definitely had to keep my focus to make sure I could do the same the next day.”
However, the national champion could not collect the points as she, too, is moving up in class.
Caitlyn Petteys, of York, Pennsylvania, was second in 3:08.682, with Jessa Muller, of New London, Wisconsin, third with a time of 3:12.427.
Petteys and Brianna Gosnell, of Evansburg, Pennsylvania, both discovered at a USA Luge Challenge at Blue Mountain, grabbed the top seeding positions as Petteys took 200 points and Gosnell 170. The latter racer placed fourth in the pair of events.
The overall results of the weekend’s action will play a role in determining the composition of next season’s teams. The overwhelming majority of the competitors were discovered in the White Castle Slider Search, with others entering the USA Luge program via the organization’s various luge clubs around the country.
The final weekend of the luge season comes up March 10-11 with the running of the Norton Junior National Championships and Seeding Races beginning each morning at 8:30 a.m.