Santa Clara resident Ellie Kleinheinz, 15, won first place for the Under-18 US Luge National Championship at the Norton Youth National Championship, held from Feb. 17 to early March in Lake Placid, New York. The sport of luge involves lying on a sled and racing down an icy track while managing turns.
“I was in the women’s singles,” Kleinheinz said of her winning run. “In the women’s singles, there is a woman on a sled. So for the youth nationals, it was about half a mile of a track, maybe a little bit more. I was going on the low to mid-60s in terms of miles per hour. I won two medals, one for the Under-18 US Luge National Championship and the other one was for the Norton Youth Overall Champion.”
“I also competed in the Norton USA Luge Junior Nationals, which was the week after the Youth National Championship,” Kleinheinz continued of another competition held in Lake Placid where she placed third overall.
In this past season, Kleinheinz has traveled more than she did the previous year with her team, the USA Luge Candidate Team. According to Kleinheinz, her trip to Europe was the first big trip she had taken without her parents.
“I traveled to Europe in mid-November to mid-December,” Kleinheinz said. “In Europe, I competed in two races in Sigulda, Latvia, and Bludenz, Austria. In Europe, I learned a lot more about luging and how to understand the track. I learned little things about the steering and how to better control your sled.
“Most of the time, the curves on European tracks are bigger and wider than the tracks in New York,” Kleinheinz continued. “American and European sleds are also different. For example, the bridges that hold the kufen, the thing on the sled that looks like a candy cane, is different from country to country. They look the same but are manufactured in a different way. The kufen is what I use to steer the sled and hold the steel, the part of the sled hitting the ice.”
In January, Kleinheinz was in Whistler, Canada and Park City, Utah for the North American Continental Cup where her team scored the points and earned the rankings to head to their next stop, South Korea.
“In early February, I went to Pyeongchang, South Korea,” Kleinheinz said. “I was there for two weeks for the Junior Olympics trials. I basically went through two weeks of training against representatives from different countries who will be competing at the Youth Olympics in February 2024 in Pyeongchang.”
Kleinheinz hopes to compete in the Youth Olympics next year. In the meantime, this high school sophomore is back home in Santa Clara and has resumed her studies at Archbishop Mitty High School.
“I have to take a leave from Mitty during the months I’m gone, and I do online school through Silicon Valley High School during this time,” Kleinheinz said. “I’m back at Mitty. Currently, I’m a catcher on the school’s JV softball team. I want to get back into softball after all the months being gone.”