February 12, 2007

The good, the bad ... and the ugly

Novices slip, slide down makeshift luge course at Greek Peak


Bob Ellis/staff photographer    
A luger gets set in the starting gate for a run during the Verizon Luge Challenge Saturday at Greek Peak. The event brought members of the USA Luge National team to  Virgil Saturday and Sunday to coach first-time and beginning lugers on the basics of the sport. After some instruction and a few practice runs, participants raced down a simulated luge course at the mountain. 

Staff Reporter

VIRGIL — The loud clang of cowbells rang out at Greek Peak Saturday as a throng of people stood at either side of a makeshift luge track, evoking true Olympic spirit.
Ernest Stinebricker, 14, finished his run with a winning time of 7.48 seconds in the boys 10-17 age group.
“It’s fun,” said Stinebricker, who is from Schenectady. “You get to go real fast.”
Unlike most of the participants for The Verizon Luge Challenge, this wasn’t Stinebricker’s first time down a track. He also luged at Windham Mountain in Windham, N.Y.
Approximately 300 people slid down the track, imitating their favorite Olympians. The event was free and open to anyone.
Participants started at the top of the track, laid down on a luge and went feet first through the track, many of them losing the luge before crossing the finish line.
Chris Thorpe, a four-time Olympian, and six other past and present members of the USA National Team and Olympic Team, were on hand to train the would-be lugers.
Participants were outfitted with the necessary equipment — goggles, helmet and a sled.
“Today is great,” said Thorpe, who won a silver medal in Nagano, Japan and the bronze in Salt Lake City Utah in 2002. He called the event “challenging, but safe.”
Senior Manager of National Sponsorships for Verizon Stephen Feeley said unlike a professional luge track, which is made of ice and is one and one-quarter miles long with a 30-story drop, the one at Greek Peak was 300 to 350 feet long and it took two and a half hours to make.
On a professional track a competitor can reach speeds up to 90 mph on a steel luge. On Saturday, Feeley said lugers reached speeds of approximately 25 mph.
Feeley said The Verizon Luge Challenge is now in its 12th year, but this was the first time the event made its way to Greek Peak. The challenge is scheduled to stop at six ski resorts in February and March, including Greek Peak; in two weeks it will be at Thunder Ridge Ski Area in Patterson.
Riders were split into four divisions: boys 10-17, girls 10-17 and women and men adult. The top finishers in each group won prizes that included iPod Nanos, Columbia sportswear and Jet Blue airfare gift certificates.
Ernest won a digital camera. His older sister Tracy, 16, received a backpack with a coat for coming in third with a time of 8.47 seconds.
Feeley said in the program’s 12 years it has exposed tens of thousands of people to the sport of luge and helped increase its fan base. Approximately 3,000 people will participate in the luge challenge this year, he said.
Verizon has sponsored the USA National Luge Team since 1985.
“We are just trying to expose the public to the sport,” said Thorpe. “We are just trying to have fun.”
Thorpe said there were only two professional luge tracks in the United States, one in Lake Placid and the other in Park City, Utah. 
Peggy Scroger, of Pennsylvania, said she tried luging once and it was “scary.”
“I enjoyed it,” said Scroger, a skier. She added that if given the opportunity, she would do it again.
Scroger’s daughter Caitlin, 13, said she posted a time of more than 14 seconds.
“It was fun,” said Caitlin, a snowboarder. “I would consider doing it again.”
Although Caitlin thought luging was fun, she said she wouldn’t trade in her snowboard for a luge. Scroger said she will be watching the sport the next time the Olympics come around.
“You don’t have to slide to have fun,” Feeley said Saturday. “You can watch your friends or siblings.”



Winterfest brings weekend of warmth to Homer

Staff Reporter

HOMER — Light snow flurries and 16-degree temperatures couldn’t keep people away from the seventh annual Homer Winterfest.
Brittany McCorduck, 10, started out the festivities watching a convoy of police cars, fire trucks and snow plows Saturday in the parade on Main Street. Frosty the Snowman and some of his pals, a squirrel and a bunny, marched along beside him.
“It’s so much fun,” said McCorduck a fifth-grader at Homer Intermediate School.
McCorduck attended the event with her mom, younger brother and a classmate.
Brandon McCorduck, 7, said the best part of the day was the candy thrown during the parade. Brittany watched as her brother and a classmate Marc Harris, 10, scrambled for the  candy thrown from parade participants. “I’m too cold to move,” Brittany McCorduck said.
Winterfest is a two-day event, which features a parade, human dogsled race, community dance, fireworks, a pancake breakfast, a pig roast, chili cook-off and more. Brittany McCorduck participated in the talent showcase, singing “Maybe” from the musical “Annie.”
Harris said he attended the bonfire and community dance, which were both held on Friday. He said Friday evening events were “warm.”
Both Brandon McCorduck and Harris said they were looking forward to the human dogsled race, which took place after the parade at the Homer Elementary School playground. Brandon McCorduck said he attended the festivities because his entire family was attending, but Harris had ulterior motives. He came to see his sister, Brianna Hughes, 14, fall in the human dogsled race.
“I want her to win. But it will be funny if she falls,” Harris said, grinning. He also waved to his mother, Mora Harris, who is a volunteer firefighter, as she sat in the cab of a fire truck.
Harris got part of his wish. Although his sister’s team didn’t win the human dogsled race they did fall. The team came in third.
Although they won under a different name, last year’s champs successfully defended their title. Cool Runnings, formerly known as Team Pedersen, beat the Salchichas by two seconds.
After their second run, Jennelle Pedersen, 13, the rider for Cool Runnings, said they had a pretty good run. Cool Runnings competed in the 14-18 age group.
Audrey Aloi, of Cortlandville, cheered two of her children on as they took part in the race.
“They just have so much fun doing this,” said Aloi. Her 7-year-old daughter Ashley came back out of breath.
“It’s not as easy as it looks,” Ashley Aloi said.
Aloi was resigned to not enter the contest, but a shortage of adult racers persuaded her otherwise. Last year her niece, Kaitlynn Griffin, 11, was on a team that came in second.


Boehlert begins new career as professor

Staff Reporter

Former Congressman Sherwood Boehlert has started a new career as a university professor and author in Washington, D.C.
Boehlert said Tuesday he was looking for something to do after retiring as New York’s 24th District representative in December. He said his new jobs are less time-consuming and stressful than his previous one.
“I’m a realist,” Boehlert said. “I wasn’t looking for a second full-time career.”
Boehlert, 70, said his new jobs allow him to spend more time with his family and relax.
Boehlert retired from the House of Representatives in December after spending 24 years representing Central New York’s 24th District, which includes Cortland and Utica. Boehlert was known for being a moderate Republican and for his work on the House Science Committee.