Julia Clukey’s bid for a second Olympics fell short Friday night.
Needing a top-five finish to guarantee a spot on the U.S. Olympic women’s luge team, the Augusta native finished sixth by less than a 10th of a second in Friday’s World Cup event at Park City, Utah.
Clukey, who finished 17th at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, put together two strong runs Friday – a 44.003 on the first run (after which she was eighth) and a 44.000 on the second – to put herself in position to earn her second Olympic berth. She was in first with seven sleds remaining with an aggregate time of 1:28.003. But the times kept dropping and the final three racers – Dajana Eitberger of Germany, Kate Hansen of the U.S. and Natalie Geinsenberger of Germany – all finished ahead of Clukey, pushing her to sixth.
Eitberger, the fifth-place finisher, had an aggregate time of 1:27.990, ahead of Clukey by just .013 seconds.
Geisenberger won the race in 1:27.628 and Hansen was fourth.
Summer Britcher, a 19-year-old from Glen Rock, Pa., earned the final berth on the U.S. team with a ninth-place finish Friday.
“Missing out on the chance to compete in the upcoming Olympics is very disappointing. Tonight’s race came down to fractions of a second and I gave it everything I had,” said Clukey
“As I’ve told the thousands of high school students and young people over the past few years, there are times in your life when you are going to face adversity and it’s up to you how to respond to it. I certainly plan to learn from this experience and become an even stronger person. I wish my teammates the best of luck in Sochi and will be proud to support them in any way I can.”
Clukey, 28, was the second U.S. finisher.
Hansen finished fourth at 1:27.929 to secure the second spot on the U.S. team (Erin Hamlin had earned her spot last week) and Summer Britcher earned the third spot with a ninth-place finish in 1:28.023. The U.S. had all four women finish in the top nine.
The selection process for the women’s team is complicated, broken into three tiers of criteria.
The A tier is a top-five finish, which guarantees a spot. Both Hamlin and Hansen earned their spots with this criteria.
The B tier is two top-nine finishes. Britcher met that criteria Friday.
The C tier is one top-nine finish and two top-12 finishes, which is the one Clukey satisfied.
Clukey started strong in her first run, having one of the best starts and the best time after the third checkpoint.
She finished in 44.003 seconds, which was good enough for second at the time behind Britcher, who is also vying for the final berth.
But many of the top lugers had yet to go.
At the end of the first round, Clukey found herself in eighth place, with her three American teammates, three German lugers and Canadian Alex Gough all ahead of her, all under 44 seconds.
It was an extremely close first run: Hansen was second at 43.900, Britcher was fourth at 43.968 and Hamlin was seventh at 43.994.
Clukey came into this Olympic season favored as one of the three women to make the U.S. singles luge team.
But after finishing second in the national championships in October, she couldn’t translate that success to the World Cup circuit.
In three events in Europe, she finished 19th, 12th and 13th. Last week, at the 2012 Olympic track in Whistler, British Columbia, Clukey finished 10th.
Mike Lowe can be reached at 791-6422 or at: