LAKE PLACID - More than 40 youth racers braved temperatures of 2 degrees Fahrenheit and wind chills of minus-21 on Saturday in Lake Placid as USA Luge concluded its annual youth seeding and Norton National Championship races.
Seeding points were issued to athletes based on their age eligibility to compete next season. Therefore, competitors moving up a category could not receive seeding points for the division they are leaving.
Jett Arp, Zachary DiGregorio, Maya Chan and Sophie Kirkby captured their respective first day seeding events. With those two runs, they also had the lead at the midpoint of the 2017 Norton title chases.
Chan and Kirkby swept the three competitions, each putting down the four best heats of their respective races.
Kirkby, of Ray Brook, cruised to victory Saturday in the last seeding event and the Norton race. Her two final runs registered 1:29.965, leading to four heats of 2:59.298 from women's and doubles World Cup start three.
Kirkby ran off four consecutive best heats.
"I definitely love the advantage that this is my home track," Kirkby said. "Coming back from Europe, all these hard tracks that I've been racing on. Just to come home to something that I'm used to definitely helped me out with strategizing with my runs. Just some simple mind runs to help me clear up and be focused for the race."
Second place went to Isabel Wiley, of Ossining, while Molly Loucy, of Milton, Vermont, placed third.
Chan, of Chicago, collected her first Norton championship. Her second seeding race time of 1:34.793 finished a combined 3:09.034 in Youth B from the lower starting point.
"I feel really good. It's my first time placing at nationals," Chan said. "In the first run, my start was a little bit off. I nearly hit the wall. I was skidding in (curve) nine, but my second run was a lot better."
Sarah Jared, of Glendora, California, picked up the Norton silver medal in 3:16.468. Emma Erickson, of Oneida, Wisconsin, was third in 3:19.527.
While Arp and DiGregorio didn't win their respective second day seeding races, they stored enough of an advantage from Friday to take four-heat national victories in the three-race series.
Sean Hollander, of Lake Placid, was third in the opening Youth A seeding race and came back in the second seeding event to defeat DiGregorio. DiGregorio, too, had enough time in reserve from day one to claim the Norton championship as the Youth A men went up to the higher start three, entering the track at curve four.
The winner's two-day total of 3:00.646 was ample. He had the fastest time in three of the four runs, although he found it difficult sleeping on the lead.
"Definitely staying in that first position overnight was a lot to think about," DiGregorio said. "Coming back today, the first run wasn't as good as I wanted, so I knew I was going to have to fight Sean and try to beat him out on that fourth run. So it really came down to that last run. But happy to be here and happy to have gotten the win."
Hollander's four-heat aggregate time for the silver medal was 3:01.003, while Sam Day, of Wantagh, was third in 3:01.769.
Ian Thomas, of Park City, Utah, won the second Youth B seeding race handily over Arp, who led after one heat Saturday. But Thomas stormed back in the final run for the victory. Arp, of Burlington, Vermont, built up a substantial advantage through three runs from start four (curve nine) to take the Norton crown in a combined 3 minutes, 05.964 seconds.
Thomas was second in the four-heat national chase in 3:07.440, while Matt Greiner finished third in 3:08.891 after holding the opening run lead on Friday.
As the USA Luge youth season ended, the attention turns to the juniors, who will race a pair of seeding races and the Norton Junior National Championships on March 11-12 at Mount Van Hoevenberg. Daily start times are 9 a.m., with live streaming at www.usaluge.org.
Women's favorite Brittney Arndt, of Park City, who won all three events here last March, is sidelined with a knee injury and will not compete. However, Ashley Farquharson, also of Park City, is leaving the youth ranks and will race in the junior division.
Farquharson did not race in these Lake Placid youth events. She finished the recent Youth World Cup season third overall.
Youth A Men Seeding Race Points:
1. Zachary DiGregorio, Medway, Mass., 185
2. Sean Hollander, Lake Placid, 170
3. Ian Smith, Carlisle, Mass., 140
Youth A Women Seeding Race Points:
1. Sophia Kirkby, Ray Brook, 200
2. Elizabeth McKissick, Middletown, Pa., 131
3. Isabel Wiley, Ossining, 130
Youth B Men Seeding Race Points:
1. Aidan Mueller, West Islip, N.Y., 200
2. Jeffrey Sichler, Patterson, N.Y., 170
3. Roan Thomas, Park City, Utah, 140
Youth B Women (not eligible for points all will be Youth A next year)