USA LUGE: Mazdzer, Hamlin, Niccum/Terdiman win first Norton seeding race
Sandy Caligiore
(518) 523-2071
March 12, 2012 5:32 PM
LAKE PLACID, N.Y.  Olympians Chris Mazdzer and Erin Hamlin won the first of two Norton Luge Seeding Races, Monday, and took the upper hand in the chase for another national championship.

Christian Niccum and Jayson Terdiman were victorious in the doubles event, with Tuesday’s second seeding race doubling as the race for their national championship.

On a warm spring day in the Adirondacks, Mazdzer, a 2010 Olympian, captured the men’s singles race, while Hamlin, a 2006 and 2010 Olympian as well as 2009 World Champion, overtook Emily Sweeney and grabbed the women’s competition.

The season-ending series offers three races in two days: the Monday and Tuesday stand-alone seeding races will be totaled to decide the Norton National Champion.

After spending last week taking test runs on the new 2014 Olympic course in Sochi, Russia, Mazdzer arrived in Lake Placid Sunday evening and shook off the nine-hour time change to record the two best times of the event.

“I am so tired,” exclaimed Mazdzer. “I woke up a few times last night when the phone rang, and said, ‘Hello? Where am I?’ My body is pretty shot now. I just have to concentrate for a solid minute. You’ve got to give it all you’ve got. But to go for it was exhausting.”

The Saranac Lake, N.Y. luger clocked 52.599 and 52.644 seconds for a total of one minute, 45.243 seconds. Mazdzer only led rising junior Tucker West, of Ridgefield, Conn. by 0.05 after one heat. West, a member of the USA Luge gold medal effort in the team relay at the Youth Olympic Games in January, slipped further behind in the closing stages of his second run and finished sixth.

Robby Huerbin, of Pittsburgh, Pa., improved from third place to second in 1:45.639. Joe Mortensen, of Huntington Station, N.Y., overcame an injury to his left arm suffered in training, and rallied in the final run down the mile-long, 19 curve layout. The National Guard competitor registered 1:45.806 for his two attempts.

Hamlin, who placed sixth overall in the recently concluded World Cup, trailed Sweeney by merely 0.015 of a second at the intermission. But Hamlin crushed the field by nearly 0.3 in the finale to take the seeding event. The victory brought the Remsen, N.Y. racer half way to her fifth straight Norton National Championship. Her runs of 44.381 and 44.233 totaled 1:28.614 on the same three-quarters of a mile course that saw her win a world title three years ago.

“It (the runs) was alright,” said the Lake Placid track record holder. “It was not as great as I wanted it to be. The second run was more on. I had issues getting into the sled in the first run.”

Hamlin stated that her spiked gloves got hung up as she tried to complete her settle into the sled.

“I’ll try to have comfortable, relaxed runs tomorrow.”

Sweeney, of Suffield, Conn., who will enter the National Guard training program in the spring, was second in 1:28.877, with Julia Clukey, of Augusta, Maine, third, in 1:29.124. Clukey is mounting a comeback after sitting out the entire international season recovering from Chiari Syndrome.

“My race was better than training,” said Sweeney. “It was rare to have clean runs (in training).

“I was going for it, but Erin is a tough competitor. So it’s OK. I’ll come out tomorrow and try to throw down (two solid runs).”

The doubles athletes hit the ice on Mt. Van Hoevenberg as the mercury was nearing 50 degrees. Niccum, of Woodinville, Wash. and Terdiman, of Berwick, Pa. collected the win in the first of the two seeding race series. They had the fastest legs of 44.336 and 44.255 to total 1:28.591. Niccum and Terdiman did not compete in these races last year due to Niccum’s back problems, which required surgery in the spring.

 “I just laid back and tried to let it fly,” sighed Niccum, who could feel the bumps as the conditions warmed. “It was good to win. We try to do what we always do… lay back and make the sled go fast.”

Added Terdiman, “I was surprised the track was so fast given the weather.”

The National Guard team of Matt Mortensen, of Huntington Station, N.Y. (Joe’s brother) with 2006 Olympian Preston Griffall, of Salt Lake City, Utah, the 2011 Norton National Champions, took second in 1:28.707.

Junior standouts Jake Hyrns, of Muskegon, Mich. and Andrew Sherk, of Fort Washington, Pa. placed third in 1:28.964. The race marked their first start in over two months after a training crash in Koenigssee, Germany left Hyrns with a broken bone in his left wrist, while Sherk suffered a mild concussion. The duo won two Junior World Cup races and a bronze medal prior to the mishap.

The final seeding race and crowning of the Norton National Champions will be held Tuesday beginning at 9 AM.

The action will be streamed live on, in partnership with West World Media.

The medal ceremony will be held at Mid’s Park, on Main Street, in Lake Placid at 1 PM.
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