Chris Mazdzer, Summer Britcher capture second Norton Seeding Races and Norton USA Luge National Championships
LAKE PLACID, N.Y. – Olympic silver medalist Chris Mazdzer won his eighth Norton USA Luge National Championship on Saturday in Lake Placid, while Olympic teammate Summer Britcher secured her second U.S. title in conditions that changed from clouds to snow to freezing rain.
Britcher and Mazdzer won both of their respective Norton Seeding Races. The total of all four heats determined the national champion. Their names will be engraved in perpetuity on the Frank Masley Trophy, named in honor of the 10-time U.S. champion and 1984 Olympic flag bearer who passed away two years ago.
Jonny Gustafson was the national runner-up, followed by two-time Olympian Tucker West. Britcher, a member of the 2014 and 2018 Olympic teams, bested Brittney Arndt and Raychel Germaine. Once again, 2018 Emily Sweeney, of Suffield, Conn., foreran the two women’s legs as she works her way back to form after her Olympic crash in South Korea.
At the awards ceremony in the Lamy Lodge, USA Luge said goodbye to Grace Weinberg. The Pittsfield, Vt. racer, who competed with dignity, respect, fair play and….well….grace, said she fought back tears in her final career run. With her teammates extolling her at the start and the luge gods looking down, Weinberg’s last dash was her best of the week.
Mazdzer, of Saranac Lake, N.Y., had a pair of runs on Saturday that totaled 1 minute, 43.423 seconds. His four heats, including Friday and Saturday, gave him a national championship time of 3:27.305.
“The four runs were really good,” said Mazdzer, who finished just 0.02 of a second from the Olympic gold medal time last February. “I honestly wasn’t expecting to have that consistent runs based on the fact that I was going doubles to singles, but it was doubles that I was having the hardest time with. It’s really nice that singles still feels good and it’s still there.
“On the U.S. team there’s great competition. I think most of the time, a U.S. person wins the World Cup here, so if you can be on top here, that’s a good mark to be at.”
Gustafson, of Massena, N.Y., was a distant 0.86 of a second from Mazdzer but slid past West for second place despite West finishing runner-up to Mazdzer in the second seeding event. Gustafson had the fastest fourth heat, solidifying second place in 3:28.170. West, of Ridgefield, Conn., posted 3:28.364.
All three American men will represent the Stars and Stripes when the World Cup tour kicks off on Nov. 24-25 in Igls, Austria. The World Cup men’s quota is five.
Zachary DiGregorio, of Medway, Mass., took fourth place, followed by Sean Hollander, of Lake Placid. Both are juniors.
Britcher, a Sochi and Pyeongchang Olympic team member, had the fastest four individual legs giving her, like Mazdzer, the sweep of the seeding races and her name on the Masley trophy. Britcher from Glen Rock, Pa. clocked 2:58.408, 0.55 ahead of Arndt of Park City, Utah. Germaine of Roswell, Ga. took third place, nearly a second behind Britcher.
“It felt pretty good,” remarked the winner. “I had a few mistakes but it’s the beginning of the season so we’re just getting things cleaned up and figured out and getting ready for World Cup.
“It’s definitely a great way to start the season. You always want to start on top.”
Junior Ashley Farquharson, also of Park City, placed fourth, while Weinberg was fifth in her farewell.
Britcher, Sweeney, Arndt and Germaine will give the United States a full World Cup quota this winter.
There was no official doubles event. A rash of retirements in the off-season ended the run of three sleds. USA Luge has one team – Mazdzer and Jayson Terdiman – at the World Cup level. The organization stipulates there must be three sleds in the field to constitute an official race. As a result, Mazdzer and Terdiman, of Berwick, Pa., entered an exhibition event with the junior team of Dana Kellogg, of Chesterfield, Mass., and Duncan Segger, of Lake Placid.
Mazdzer and Terdiman made the partnership official 11 days ago at the Olympic Sports Complex and have been piling up the training runs in that time. They last competed as a doubles team 10 years ago in their junior days, and will be USA Luge’s lone World Cup doubles sled this year.
The Norton fall races conclude a two-week stint for USA Luge on one of their home tracks. The national team is now headed for another on-ice camp in Calgary next week, while the junior national team treks to their other home track in Park City. Sweeney will accompany the juniors to Park City and then Whistler, B.C.
Together, both squads have piled up approximately 1,500 pre-season runs to date with four weeks remaining to the World Cup opener. The circuit will make its way to Lake Placid December 15-16.
The Junior World Cup schedule opens with a pair of events in Park City December 5-8.