Two local lugers are looking to get a speedy start to the 2014-15 season.
Mount Currie's Jenna Spencer, 18, and Whistler's Reid Watts, 15, are both set to show fans their skills as they compete in the first stage of the International Luge Federation Junior World Cup. The event will take place at the Whistler Sliding Centre from Dec. 4 to 7.
Spencer enters the year looking to repeat her success of 2012-13, where she took home silver in the Youth Women A category on the World Cup circuit. She's hoping to pull off a similar feat — or higher — a level up in her second year in the junior category. That all begins here in Whistler, where she competed in a qualifier, but narrowly missed out on competing in the FIL World Cup event held at the track last year.
"It's really exciting, but it's really scary at the same time," she said. "You feel a little bit of pressure to do super well, because people are really unfamiliar with this track, but at the same time, it's nice to be at home and push at things that you've already worked on.
"It's nice to make small victories every day on your home track."
Spencer acknowledged she struggled during her first few days of training this year, noting her lines and position weren't just so. She is also getting used to a new NextGen coach, Matt McMurray (taking over for Robert Fegg), noting each instructor has guidelines that each slider adapts to his or her personal style. Spencer said she took a little bit longer to make the changes, but credited her teammates who are also riding the track with helping her make the little adjustments.
"It's been kind of rocky. I started out and things were not great," she said. "It's been a process to try to get back into it this year.
"We're looking at smaller things and not the big picture. We're refining and getting down to the nitty-gritty."
Meanwhile, the event will be Watts' first time in a major competition at his home track, and though he is familiar with the run, he isn't entirely sure what to expect when he's hurtling down with international eyes on him.
"I'm super excited about it. I've worked hard all summer, so I have some pretty high expectations for it," he said.
In preparing for his sophomore year on the circuit, Watts added he was at the Whistler Athletes' Centre High Performance Centre two to three times a day during the summer to lift weights and work on his start technique, focusing on his back and upper body in particular. He's gunning for podium finishes at each World Cup race this season.
"(I've been focusing on) consistency, trying to be fast and having good lines down the track all the time so I can be ready for the race up here," he said. "Last year, I was relatively happy with my results, but this year, I know what it's all about, so I just want to go out there and do really well."
He said he's building on his existing strengths, noting he generally has good lines and consistent performances.
Watts spent his first week of on-track training with the national team in Calgary, and in his first test of the season out there, finished second despite not competing up to his personal standards.