Hamlin Wins 2012 Norton Luge National Title
With a large contingent of family and friends on hand for support, two-time Olympian and 2009 World Champion Erin Hamlin won her fifth straight Norton National Luge Championship Tuesday at the Olympic Sports Complex in Lake Placid.
Chris Mazdzer grabbed the Norton men’s title, while the doubles team of Christian Niccum and Jayson Terdiman took gold in doubles.
The national championships concluded the season for United States luge racers on a day that broke overcast and mild, changed to a brief downpour, and then cleared. The race format presented three events in two days: each day’s competition was a separate seeding race, with the combination of both days used to declare the national champion.
Hamlin, of Remsen, N.Y., dominated in winning Tuesday’s second two-heat seeding race. The combination of the Monday and Tuesday seeding victories gave her a national championship crown by nearly 0.9 of a second.
The top three were exactly the same in both seeding events and the national championship.
Hamlin’s final two heats (second seeding race) of 45.375 and 44.935 seconds totaled two minutes, 58.924 seconds.
“The runs were really good, but a little slow, given the conditions,” she said. “It’s nice to end the season on a positive note. It’s good to win and slide here where it’s familiar and comfortable.”
Hamlin’s vocal followers cheered lustily as she concluded her final heat and was declared the winner. Now she’ll take a break from the ice and head to the snow for some skiing before a return to Lake Placid and some springtime luge training on the same track prior to the targeted closing date of April 14.
Emily Sweeney, of Suffield, Conn., was second in the seeding race and the nationals. She posted four runs that were timed in 2:59.810. The effervescent winner of two Junior World Cups and three Junior Challenge Cup races this past winter will embark shortly for five months of basic training with the Army National Guard.
Julia Clukey, of Augusta, Maine, was third each day and won the national championship bronze medal in 3:00.077. Ironically as the 2011-2012 season concludes, Clukey, a member of the 2010 Olympic team, is just beginning her return to luge racing after surgery last spring for Chiari Syndrome at the D.I.S. C Sport and Spine Center in California.
“I missed a lot of training time, so I’ll start training again to get stronger,” said Clukey. “I was holding back a little here at the start, but I know that will get better with time.” On a weekly basis, Clukey has proven to be among the fastest starters on the international circuit. She has been as high as fifth in World Cup races and sixth at the World Championships.
“It was hard training on my own all year,” continued Clukey. “But today proved my hard work paid off.”
Hamlin piled up the maximum 200 seeding points; Sweeney had 170 and Clukey 140. United States luge team coaches will incorporate these results into the process of naming the fall 2012 team.
As the weather cleared and warmed, the medal ceremony took place at Mid’s Park, on Main Street in Lake Placid, overlooking Mirror Lake. As smiles and handshakes overtook the parting scene and athletes went their separate ways for the spring, there was the reminder that time, like a luge sled itself, flies.
After an off-season of training, the track will be ready in October.