Ashlyn Baker hopped into the car two years ago, on her way to a White Castle USA Luge Slider Search event in Minneapolis.
She had never really thought about the sport of luge. In fact she figured what she was getting into was a headfirst ride. The Victoria native later discovered that was the sport of Skelton. Luge being a feet-first sport.
Two years later, Baker, 14, is a member of the USA Luge Junior Developmental Team. She was first discovered at the 2017 slider search in Minneapolis. Now she’s training to someday be an Olympian.
Baker, who went to Minnetonka Middle School West and is enrolled for Minnetonka High School for the fall, remembers that first day at the Slider Search.
“I get in the car and I can’t believe my parents are going to let me go down this track headfirst. Once I found out it was feet first, I thought, ‘I got this.’ A lot of the people that get called back have natural ability, but the coaches are looking for coachibility and how hard an athlete is willing to work,” Baker said.
An Olympic sport since 1964, luge consists of athletes sliding down a track of ice on sleds at speeds approaching 90 miles per hour. The White Castle USA Luge Slider Search, in town for a circuit stop June 15-16, had participating kids luging at much slower, more introductory speeds on wheeled luge sleds.
Two more events are scheduled for Chicago June 22-23 and Appleton, Wisconsin on June 29-30.
More than 250,000 youngsters have been introduced to luge in the program since its inception over 30 years ago.
“After the Slider Search they invited me back to Lake Placid for a screening camp. There were like 100 girls and they choose 12 to go to a callback camp. They cut a few people and then I was invited to be a part of the team,” Baker said.
After training for a half-day, some months later, Baker was on the icy surface at Lake Placid, home of the 1980 Winter Olympic Games.
She found the ice surface to be “super relaxed and super smooth.” Baker said she was able to steer a lot easier, something she did not expect.
Just being in Lake Placid with the history of the town was a moment not lost on her.
“It was so cool. We came a week before Christmas. We found a bunch of luge Olympians and other Olympians there, and it was such a cool moment to see such great inspirations,” she said.
Baker likes to try new sports. She’s played basketball, ran track, competed in rowing and plans to go out for cross country. She also played the viola instrument as well.
Luge, though, brings out her true side. Often times hiking with her mother, if there’s an adventure to it, they’ll make it happen.
“I’ve always liked speed, and I’ve always been adventurous. There’s so much adrenaline that goes into the sport,” Baker said.
After spending a year on the development team — one week training in the summer, six weeks in the winter — Baker has moved up to the nine-member C team.
That means three trips to Lake Placid this summer, including this week, along with 10-to-12 weeks of training in the winter. Talk about a crazy schedule for a freshman in high school.
That’s why Baker plans to spend her time at home in Victoria this summer doing what a 14-year-old may do.
“My family loves to go camping, so we’ll have that. I love bouncing on trampolines, so we have a membership for that. I’m planning to go to Valleyfair with my aunt. And of course, practice lacrosse with my sister,” Baker said.
Adventure, yes to all, but maybe not 90 miles per hour down an icy track kind of adventure.