LAKE PLACID - The top luge athletes in the country will gather in Lake Placid at the frozen ramps of the USA Luge Indoor Start Training Facility on Thursday, Sept. 27 at 7 p.m. for the USA Luge Start Championships.
The event will feature top U.S. men, women and doubles teams vying for the national start title. Entry to the event is free.
With the 2011 retirement of 10-time start championship winner Ashley Walden of Westborough Mass., last year's runner-up, Emily Sweeney of Suffield, Conn., will look to move up a notch to the gold medal position in the women's division. She will face stiff competition from Remsen native and 2009 World Champion Erin Hamlin and a resurgent Julia Clukey of Augusta, Maine.
Clukey, a 2010 Olympian, spent the majority of last season recovering from surgery to correct a Chiari malformation, which restricted the flow of her cerebrospinal fluid. 2008 Junior World Champion Kate Hansen of La Canada, Calif. will also be fighting for a podium position.
Tucker West of Ridgefield, Conn., who stunned the field by winning the 2011 men's competition at the age of 16, will look to lock up his second title.
A field that includes last year's silver medalist, Nick Gerardi of Queensbury and 2010 Olympian Chris Mazdzer of Saranac Lake will challenge West.
In doubles, the duo of Matt Mortensen (Huntington Station) and Preston Griffall (Salt Lake City, Utah) hope to fend off challenges from Grapevine, Texas native Shane Hook and Salt Lake City's Zac Clark.
Junior World Cup medalists Jake Hyrns from Muskegon, Mich. and Andrew Sherk of Fort Washington, Pa. will also be competing for a podium slot. The National Team duo of Christian Niccum of Woodinville, Wash. and Jayson Terdiman of Berwick, Pa. will not compete as Niccum continues his recovery from back surgery in April.