NEGAUNEE, Mich. (WJMN) – The World Cup in soccer is over, but there is another World Cup on the calendar. One with a team from the Upper Peninsula representing the USA. That sport is natural track luge, which trains at Lucy Hill in Negaunee. These world-class athletes will be leaving for Europe on Christmas Day to compete in the Luge World Cup of natural track luge.
Senior team member Zane Farnsworth is on his way to his second Luge World Cup.
“It’s overwhelming, but I’m extremely excited,” said Farnsworth. “I mean, I’d say that for all the athletes that are out here, but I’m getting prepared as we speak, packing and everything but yeah, I’m really excited.”
This sport differs from its more well-known counterpart, the one we see in the Olympics, artificial track luge. Farnsworth says natural track luge requires more finesse, more steering, more breaking and more control.
“Every little movement counts,” said Farnsworth. “I mean you adjust your shoulders, your sled is gonna move a little bit obviously this is at higher much higher speeds than what public people would be doing but you know you set up your center of gravity is completely changed your point of turning would be increased at that point. Every little minute movement has to be adjusted, you know, performed and perfected.”
The thrill of natural track luge is evident on the face of every member of the team. Torrey Cookman is no stranger to the Luge World Cup, and his enthusiasm is representative of the entire team.
“Oh, I’m psyched,” said Cookman. “I’m like, I’m excited to get over there get luging. I know every year when I hop on the sled. It’s like, ‘oh my gosh, I forgot how much fun this was.’ So, I’m just excited to hop on the sled and go and see my friends.”
None of this would have happened had it not been for their coach, Keith Whitman, who has been the guiding force for the team for many years. Veteran luger Katie Cookman thanks her coach for introducing her to so many wonderful new cultures.
“It’s very interesting like down to the food and just the way that they greet each other is much different and I think it’s very beautiful how all of the different cultures differ,” said Cookman.
First-time competitor Jillian Best knows this will be a life-changing event and she is understandably excited to take on the Alps.
“The adrenaline rush you know going down that hill,” says Best. “However many miles per hour you’re going you know, it’s going through your head this is why I do this, you know, here and the people down here that are like, ‘oh my God, that’s so awesome.’ You know, you know it’s the best part.”
The competition begins December 30 high up in the mountains of Austria.