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updated: 5/18/2014 6:59 PM

Who needs ice? Youngsters gather in Westmont for national luge tryout

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  • Young luge enthusiasts wait Sunday for their chance to slide down Cass Avenue in Westmont during a special summer tryout hosted by the U.S. Luge Assocation. Youngsters who performed well will have a chance to earn a spot on the U.S. Junior Luge Team.

       Young luge enthusiasts wait Sunday for their chance to slide down Cass Avenue in Westmont during a special summer tryout hosted by the U.S. Luge Assocation. Youngsters who performed well will have a chance to earn a spot on the U.S. Junior Luge Team.
    Matt Arado | Staff Photographer

  • The participants at the "Slider Search" in Westmont were evaluated on how well they took direction and how they steered the wheeled sled. Youngsters who performed well will have a chance to earn a spot on the U.S. Junior Luge Team.

       The participants at the "Slider Search" in Westmont were evaluated on how well they took direction and how they steered the wheeled sled. Youngsters who performed well will have a chance to earn a spot on the U.S. Junior Luge Team.
    Matt Arado | Staff Photographer

 
 

"Head up!"

"Left leg, left leg!"

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"Easy, now!"

These and other phrases of instruction and encouragement rang out over Cass Avenue in Westmont Sunday, as youngsters from all over the suburbs tried to land a spot on the U.S. Junior Luge Team.

The participants, all between 9 and 13 years of age, lay back on special wheeled luge sleds and whizzed down the street, while evaluators from the United States Luge Association checked out their skills.

This is the third time that the association has held a "Slider Search" in the DuPage County suburb. The event, which took place Saturday and Sunday, is part of the Luge Association's effort to recruit young people into the sport. In the best-case scenario, a good performance at a Slider Search can lead to a spot on the U.S. Olympic Team.

Sound far-fetched? Talk to Tom Wilczak of Romeoville.

Wilczak's daughter, Becky, participated in a Slider Search in Naperville in 1992, when she was 12 years old. Ten years after that, Becky competed in the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, where she placed fifth in the women's singles event.

"It all started at a tryout just like this," Wilczak said Sunday. "A teacher of hers had told her about it, so we brought her. And she really took off."

Becky Wilczak was at Sunday's Slider Search, helping to evaluate the young luge hopefuls.

"We're looking to see who does well with the steering, who listens to instruction, who's coachable," she said between the young hopefuls' runs.

The children who show particular promise during the Slider Search event are invited to participate in a special USA Luge-sanctioned training program. According to the association's website, most of the current USA Junior National Team arrived via Slider Search events.

Leslie Rittenberg of Geneva attended Sunday's tryout to watch her 12-year-old daughter, Alix.

"She's pretty athletic and self-driven as it is, so this seemed like it might be a good fit for her," Rittenberg said.

When asked what it was like to see her daughter flying down the street on a luge sled, Rittenberg's face lit up.

"It's awesome!" she said.

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