It was a trying year for Jenna Spencer, but she wrapped the season on a strong point.
The Mount Currie resident celebrated her final day as an 18 year old by capturing the Junior Canadian Championships at Whistler Sliding Centre on March 12.
The luger slid to a time of one minute, 20.416 seconds (1:20.416) to edge out Calgary's Rachel Klassen by 0.001 seconds. Pemberton's Nicole Pidperyhora, meanwhile, placed fourth out of the seven juniors.
Spencer placed seventh on the Junior World Cup circuit this season, and her highest result was the same, coming at the season's final race in Winterberg, Germany. She then received the opportunity to train in Lillehammer, Norway, where the Youth Olympics will take place next winter.
"I feel really relieved. I finally feel like I pulled something off with my season," she said. "(Training at) Lillehammer was good and Winterberg was good and then everything didn't really come to my expectations, so this was a really good way to end off my season."
Though this year didn't play out the way Spencer hoped, it's not a complete write-off, as she'll use her experiences to get stronger in the coming seasons.
"I'm just going to take it and learn and move on because there's no point in looking back on the season and regretting it instead of looking back on the season and learning from it," she said. "(I learned) patience and communication and a lot about trying new things on the sled."
Spencer explained some elements of her approach are still on the wonky side, and while she hasn't figured out the solution, she's been able to use the process of elimination to cancel out some theories.
"There's still a lot to work on because luge is so complex," she said. "There's definitely hints on what not to do now, but there's no guarantee of 'definitely do this.'"
Spencer said she and Klassen are extremely close, and talked one another through the race as both sought to cap the season with a solid showing. With that help, she felt strong going into the race.
"I felt like I was there mentally. I worked really hard on my sled the day before," she said.
Spencer isn't going to make too much of the result and what it could mean when she kicks off the 2015-16 campaign. However, she hopes it launches her into a productive offseason of gym workouts and start training — the main area of her approach she feels needs to improve.
"I'm not going to take this too seriously, but I'm going to take this as that happy point to end the season and maybe just a little momentum going into the summer," she said.
Fennell earns men's crown
On the men's side, Calgarian John Fennell trumped the field in his final junior race.
The 2014 Olympian emerged by 0.630 seconds over Squamish's Nicky Klimchuk-Brown with a time of 1:43.359. Fennell was the only junior-aged slider in the event, as the other five competitors are all in the youth A category,
"It was a little bit difficult, especially when it's warm and rainy like that," said Fennell, who turns 20 in May. "I felt good, I felt strong and confident.
"What I'm going to take away is the fact that I put down two good runs here today and hopefully I'll apply that in the future, because that's where I need to improve the most."
Fennell started the season on the Viessmann World Cup circuit, taking part in three races with a top showing of 20th. From there, he downshifted to the Junior World Cup loop where he took part in three races, posting a best finish of ninth. Fennell hopes the lessons he learned this season help to push him forward in his career.
"My season was very up and down," he said. "The area I need to grow the most in sliding is just getting the consistency and putting down consistent runs."
Like Spencer, Fennell will be working on his starts over the summer. A shoulder injury suffered in January hindered him this season, so healing from that will be a major boon for him.
"From January 'til now, it's been a bit of a regression," he said. "There's a lot of room for improvement."
As for the third category, Matt Riddle and Reid Watts emerged as the national doubles champions, defeating the other entry duo of Klimchuk-Brown and Adam Shippit.
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