Finally, there are no longer homework assignments for Summer Britcher to worry about.
There are no tests to study for.
For the first time in the life of the Glen Rock native, Britcher is able to just focus on herself and her sled. And if she stays at her current pace, Britcher could very well end up representing the United States in women's luge at the 2014 Winter Olympics next February in Sochi, Russia.
"It has changed a lot," Britcher said of her life since graduating from Susquehannock High School last June. "I always had luge in the winter and would get stressed out about deadlines (with school assignments). I'd be somewhere competing worried about not having Internet and not able to submit an assignment. This year, it's a lot more relaxing not having to lead two lives."
That's not to say Britcher, who just turned 19 last week, hasn't been working hard on her craft. In the summer she works as a waitress at a restaurant in Lake Placid, N.Y., which is the headquarters of USA Luge.
"I worked all summer trying to save up for a car," Britcher said by phone Monday afternoon from Lake Placid. "Then I had to get a passport and a computer. So I still don't have a car."
She trains throughout the year to get better at luge, the sport where athletes fly down an icy course feet-first in sleds.
"We stay here in the summer at Lake Placid and put wheels on our sleds and go down a concrete course," she said.
Accomplishments: While she's already won plenty of medals during her young career, Britcher added a couple more in recent weeks.
Two weeks ago in the final event of the luge season, which typically runs from late October through March for the U.S. national team in Lake Placid, Britcher took second place behind former U.S. Olympian Erin Hamlin.
As a result, Hamlin and Britcher earned entries into the 2013 Norton National Championship and Seeding Races that take place in late October. That is the first of many events in a lengthy schedule to qualify for the 2014 Winter Olympics, something Britcher has been aiming for since she fell in love with the sport in 2006.
Britcher followed up on that second-place performance by taking gold at the Norton Junior National Championships (ages 19 and below) this past weekend in Lake Placid. In four separate heats, Britcher had a combined time of 2 minutes, 58.843 seconds. She edged out last year's champion, Emily Sweeney, who had a time of 2:59.205. It marked Britcher's second gold medal in the event in her career.
"It does feel good," she said. "I had some rough races this season. Just ending the season with a gold is the best possible ending I could think of. A bunch of my family members came up to watch me, so that was really good."
With the luge season wrapped up, Britcher has plans to make a return stop home at some point in the coming months, get back to her waitress job in Lake Placid and begin online classes with DeVry. All the while, she'll work hard in perhaps her most important offseason training schedule of her career to get ready for next season's many qualifying events for the 2014 Winter Olympics.
-- Reach John Walk at firstname.lastname@example.org.