Even now, U.P. Luge Club focused on their snowy, icy sport

These are participants from the Midwest Junior Championship Race that was held at the Lucy Hill luge track in Negaunee this winter. (Photo courtesy Nickolas Plourde)

NEGAUNEE — Even with a lack of snow that most Upper Peninsula residents will gladly miss for at least four or five months, the Upper Peninsula Luge Club is already looking forward to next season while looking back on a successful winter campaign.

The hard work and dedication of the club’s volunteers made what was an unusually warm winter work out with several competitive races and other events open to the public at its Lucy Hill track in Negaunee.

The U.S. national luge team was featured at events as the track hosted a carnival-like race to mark the end of the season.

Lucy Hill is the national team’s home as that youthful group trains there before leaving for Europe during the Christmas and New Year’s holidays for World Cup and championship races in Alpine regions that include Italy, Austria, Switzerland and Germany.

This winter’s team members were Torrey Cookman, Katie Cookman, Thomas Matthews, Mason Palacek and Leonard Pizziola.

These are participants from the North American Championship Race that was held at the Lucy Hill luge track in Negaunee this winter. (Photo courtesy Nickolas Plourde)

After they returned from Europe in February, they competed in two qualifying race at Lucy Hill.

On Feb. 26, the club hosted the North American Championship Race. A festive atmosphere was complete with sunshine, a local deejay and food from a Scouting America local troop. Spectators lined the track top to bottom to observe athletes exhibiting their skills despite slushy conditions due to warm temperatures.

Leading the female general class was Katie Cookman of Marquette, while winning the male general class was Henry Anderson of Appleton, Wisconsin. Taking first place in the male junior general class was Jackson Rink of Marquette, with other competitors in their finishing order included Pizziola, Palecek, Matthews, Kurt Bates, Max Moore and Caleb Schwiderson.

On March 2, U.P. Luge hosted the season-ending Kiwanis Junior Midwest Championship race. Thanks to the club’s volunteers, the ice on the track remained in good condition during pleasant viewing conditions.

Katie Cookman won in the female junior class, while Anderson was victorious in the male junior class. Taking the top spot in males guest class was Zane Farnsworth of Marquette with other competitors included, in finishing order, Pizziola, Bates, Palecek, Matthews, Moore, Rink, Schwiderson and Elise Palecek.

Leonard Pizziola of Ishpeming slides down a track in the European Alps during the 2024 winter natural luge season. (Photo courtesy Laura Farnsworth)

A number of newcomers came out to try luge during public sliding sessions held at Lucy Hill, the only full-length natural luge track in North America. They included both local residents and those coming from far and wide, including the East and West coasts.

In the past, those visitors had even included those coming from Europe and Asia.

“Guests like the upbeat atmosphere among visitors and volunteers,” U.P. Luge Club member Wesley McDermott said about public sliding. “People who enjoy physical activity together outdoors in the wintertime seem to just generally be nice.

“The conversation around the fire pit, people chatting as they bring their sleds back up the hill, and the encouragement among each other, it’s good fun, with a uniquely good sport.”

Club members say that luge can be compared to sledding, though slider go further, faster and with more control.

More information about the U.P. luge club is available online at www.upluge.org or on Facebook at The Upper Peninsula Luge Club.

Information compiled from information provided by U.P. Luge Club spokesman Nickolas Plourde and by Journal Sports Editor Steve Brownlee. Brownlee’s email address is sbrownlee@miningjournal.net.


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