Glen Rock native Summer Britcher is headed to the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.
Britcher, a 2012 Susquehannock High School graduate, earned a spot on the United States luge team by placing ninth in the fifth World Cup event of the 2013-14 season in Park City, Utah, on Friday.
In order to qualify for the Olympics, Britcher entered Friday needing a top-nine finish and had to hope that her main U.S. competitor, Julia Clukey, a 2010 U.S. Olympian, finished outside of the top five. Both scenarios played out, with Clukey finishing sixth.
"I knew that I had to place top nine," Britcher said by phone Sunday night. "I knew my competitor had to not get top five. When I finished (my second run) I was at ninth place and there were still three top sliders to go. It was really nerve-racking because if (any) of them messed up, then my competitor would move up from sixth place and I would be out."
It marks the first time in Britcher's career that she has earned a spot on the U.S. Winter Olympic team since first competing in luge -- the sport where an athlete flies down an icy course feet-first on a sled -- seven years ago at the Liberty Mountain Resort in Carroll Valley. Britcher's mom, dad, brother, uncle and a cousin were in attendance at Friday's event and have spent the weekend celebrating the accomplishment.
"I have been on an emotional roller coaster," Britcher said. "This is probably the best feeling ever. I'm tired. I've gotten some good sleep the last two nights. I haven't been able to sleep the past month."
It is believed that Britcher, 19, will become the first-ever York County native to participate in the Olympic Winter Games. A number of York County athletes have competed in the Summer Games, including, most recently, Linda Myers, Whitney Metzler and Scott Strausbaugh. Myers was a two-time participant in the Olympics as an archer in 1972 and 1976; Metzler was a member on the 1996 Olympic swimming team; and Strausbaugh won a gold medal in the 1992 Summer Olympics as a slalom canoe racer.
Britcher: Britcher has been on a steady climb in the sport over the last seven years, earning several medals at various events all over the world.
More recently, she took bronze in 2011 in the Norton National Women's Luge Championships and posted the fourth-fastest time among U.S. female competitors at the same event in 2012.
It was only because of her performance in the final luge event of the 2012-13 season back in March -- when she posted the second-fastest time of U.S. female competitors -- that qualified Britcher for seeding events in October. She then performed well enough in those October events to make it onto the U.S. World Cup team, which provided her the opportunity to qualify for the Winter Olympics.
World Cup: Things didn't go quite as planned for Britcher in the first four World Cup events. She didn't even finish her opening run in the first event of the season in Norway but bounced back with a top-eight finish in the second event in Austria. She then missed qualifying for the third World Cup event in Germany before following up with a 15th-place finish at the fourth event earlier this month in Canada.
Britcher finished with a combined time of 1 minute, 28.023 seconds on Friday, just 0.395 seconds off the leader and the fourth-fastest finish among U.S. female competitors.
Britcher is one of three women's singles racers and 10 overall lugers on the U.S. Olympic luge team. She and her teammates have three more World Cup events remaining in preparation for the Sochi Games. In addition, the fastest women's and men's singles luger at the end of the season will be selected to compete on the U.S. luge relay team at the Olympics.
"I'm hoping to do well enough to be selected for that (too)," Britcher said.
--Reach John Walk at firstname.lastname@example.org.