NEGAUNEE, Mich. (WLUC) - Not many in the Upper Peninsula may know it, but the United States Natural Track Luge Team is housed in Negaunee, and this year’s team is about to take off for international competition.
On Christmas day, 14 year olds, Torrey Cookman and Henry Anderson, will head off for the World Cup in Europe, beginning in Austria.
"For young men and women that want to be involved, it's an excellent opportunity to travel the world. At 14 years of age how many people can say they did that?" explains U.S. Natural Track Luge Coach Keith Whitman.
Cookman has been luging for five years, and this is his second selection to the team.
"He knows the line very well, he slides a very good line, and he's very confident in sliding that line. He knows where the sled's got to be when it's gotta be there, how he's going to get it there," Whitman says.
Last year Cookman placed 3rd, 4th and 12th in World Cup events, but he doesn't expect those kind of results this time around.
"The other competitors in Europe are really, really good, and this year I'm in a different division and don't expect to win high places like I did last year, so I just want to beat my times from last year," explains Torrey Cookman, a 14-year-old luger from Marquette.
For Anderson, it’s his first time with the team, as he’s only been luging for two years.
"Right now he's learned how to drive the sled aggressively but also to drive it well and that's fine with me," Coach Whitman states.
"It's really exciting. It's going to be a really good opportunity. I'm excited to compete representing the United States, it's pretty cool," says 14-year-old luger Henry Anderson from Appleton, Wisc.
But this winter, the athletes will be heading to World Cup events without getting a lot of reps at their home track of Lucy Hill in Negaunee, one of three natural tracks in the country. But practice isn't all about physically getting on the sled.
"It's mainly mentally. You can sit on your sled at home and just imagine the track and go down it in your head," says Cookman.
"We've been through this track so many times, you can do the motions - going out for the turns and stuff, feel the lines. It's actually pretty similar to going down the track," Anderson continues.
This stint will be the first of World Cup play, before leaving again for Germany at the end of January 2019. If you’d like to follow along on the journey, you can visit their Facebook page.