Mazdzer, Sweeney win 2nd of 4 US Luge race-offs

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Emily Sweeney pulled off the first major surprise of USA Luge's national team trials. The 17-year-old junior national team member from Suffield, Conn., won Friday's race-off, the second in a four-event series to determine USA Luge's World Cup roster for the coming season. Sweeney was last in Wednesday's series opener. Sweeney now sits a surprising second in the women's race-off standings, putting her into the next round at Park City, Utah on Nov. 6. The team for the fall rounds of World Cup racing - and USA Luge's Olympic qualifying series - will be chosen after the final race at the 2010 Olympic track in Whistler, B.C., on Nov. 15. "I realized that the only pressure on me is pressure that I'm putting on myself," Sweeney said. "So I just kind of relaxed. I don't really have that much to lose, so I just kind of let it go." Former junior world champion Kate Hansen of La Canada, Calif., was second and 2002 Olympian Ashley Walden of Lake Placid and Westborough, Mass., third. Walden leads the points standings at the midway mark of the series, followed by Sweeney and Hansen. In the men's race-off, Chris Mazdzer of Saranac Lake, N.Y., won for the second straight time, beating Trent Matheson of Bountiful, Utah, and Robby Huerbin of Pittsburgh. All three of those sliders advanced to the next round. "I'm actually quite relieved that the pressure's off," Mazdzer said. "I performed up to my expectations for myself. ... I'm pretty much set for the World Cup so I'm actually really happy with myself right now." Many lugers are exempt from the race-offs, including reigning women's world champion Erin Hamlin, Julia Clukey, Bengt Walden and Tony Benshoof. USA Luge's three doubles teams for the season - Mark Grimmette and Brian Martin, Christian Niccum and Dan Joye, and Matt Mortensen and Preston Griffall - have already been selected. The race-offs will decide the other five spots on USA Luge's fall team, with two men's singles spots and three women's singles spots at stake.

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