Glen Rock's Summer Britcher took big step toward securing another U.S. Olympic luge berth on Saturday in World Cup action in Calgary, Alberta, in Canada.
The Susquehannock High School graduate finished fifth in the women's race, climbing from eighth place after the first heat. Her combined time was 1 minute, 33.970 seconds, after posting the third-fastest time of the second heat.
Britcher, who finished 15th in the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Russia, has secured an A tier qualification standard in the USA Luge Olympic team selection process for the 2018 Games in South Korea.
Britcher faced her fair share of challenges on the first heat. After conferring with her coaches, she decided to run on equipment she had not used during training.
“I was a little nervous for the first run, not sure how it was going to go having not had any training on the equipment I was riding,” Britcher said on the USA Luge website. “I was just trying to put the sled down the hill, see how it was going to react and I was really able to go for it more on the second run.”
Emily Sweeney, of Suffield, Connecticut, battled minor mistakes on both runs to place seventh with a time of 1:34.071.
Sweeney also moved closer to securing an Olympic team nomination. By virtue of posting two top nine results, she has secured a B tier classification.
Sochi Olympic bronze medalist Erin Hamlin was sitting in fourth after one heat, but the exit of curve eight threw her offline. The Remsen, New York, native dropped back to 18th in 1:35.169. Hamlin has already secured nomination to the 2018 Olympic team.
Raychel Germaine, of Greenville, South Carolina, did not qualify for the World Cup.
Hamlin, Britcher and Sweeney appear to be strong favorites to become nominees to the PyeongChang team representing the United States in February, though scenarios do exist whereby Germaine could punch a ticket to South Korea.
In Saturday's race, Germany’s Tatjana Huefner upset teammate Natalie Geisenberger’s perfect season, taking gold in 1:33.442. Canadian Alex Gough was second in 1:33.557, with a 1:33.603 for bronze medalist Geisenberger.
Germans remain strong in the overall points race. Geisenberger leads with 440 points, in front of Huefner with 400. Gough sits in third with 283 points after the fourth of nine events.
Britcher and Sweeney hold fifth and sixth places, with 257 and 250 points, respectively. Hamlin is 10th with 168.
Race within a race: A race within a race was held to determine the America-Pacific-Championships. Gough took gold, with teammate Kim McRae second and Britcher in third.
The World Cup circuit is in the fourth of five consecutive weekends of racing. The finale of that stretch will occur in Lake Placid on Friday and Saturday, Dec. 15-16. USA Luge will announce its 10 Olympic nominees on the evening of Dec. 16 at 6 p.m. in the conference center in Lake Placid.
Britcher helps relay team take fourth: In addition, Britcher was part of a U.S. team that finished fourth on Saturday in Calgary in relay action.
After close to three miles of racing, a mere .065 seconds separated the United States relay team from the bronze medal won by team Austria.
The winning sled from Germany crossed the finish line in a record 2:21.146 seconds, the hometown favorites from Canada stopped the clock in 2:21.187. Austria took the bronze in 2:21.589.
Information for this story was provided by USA Luge.