For Jenna Spencer, the big crew of people behind her back home came to mind first as she further established herself as the face of B.C. luge over in Europe.
The 16-year-old from Pemberton became the first athlete from British Columbia to place top-three overall on the Junior World Cup luge circuit, finishing second in the youth women’s standings as the season wrapped up Friday (Feb. 15) at Winterberg, Germany.
“I’m excited. The first thing I thought is, ‘My mom will be so proud,’” she said Monday (Feb. 18) after returning home. “I really wanted it for everyone, not just for me — I wanted it for my coaches, for my teammates, I really wanted it for my family and I definitely wanted it for Canada. I’ve never been so excited to be Canadian.”
Spencer led the 14- to 17-year-old age group heading into the sixth and final race at Winterberg, but her seventh-place finish wound up being a throwaway result when calculating the final standings. Germany’s Jessica Tiebel used home track advantage to take the victory and surpass Spencer in the standings.
“I’m really happy about all of my races, but maybe not so much the last one,” said Spencer. “I’m a little upset that I didn’t keep my first place, but it just gives me something in the future to strive for.”
Spencer finished with three podium finishes in six races this season, her second on the Junior World Cup tour, highlighted by a silver medal in Calgary. But since just the top five results count towards a luger’s overall standing, only a victory at Winterberg would have been enough for Spencer to hold off Tiebel.
“I wasn’t expecting to stay there in first … because Winterberg and I have never really gotten along,” she said. “I just haven’t found my medium with it yet — I try so hard, but I think it’s because I try so hard that I don’t get it right.”
In her rookie season, Spencer finished fourth in the standings and netted one podium finish. After continued improvement this winter, Spencer plans to skip her final year of eligibility in the youth division and move directly up to junior women’s racing next season.
“My coaches and I feel like second is awesome, and there’s no point in sticking around if you can have one more year of experience up higher,” she said.
Spencer competed in the FIL Junior World Championships in Park City, Utah, this winter and placed 17th.
“For my first time, that was a good experience,” she said, noting that she’ll need to record quicker start times to be competitive at the next level.
“That’s not really a strong point of mine.”
Spencer said she and team coaches hope to focus more time on her sled specs to help find the hundredths and thousandths of seconds that can make all the difference in luge.
Also a junior world champion in dragon boat racing, Spencer continues to be the Canadian Luge Association’s best example of the talent that can be fostered at the Whistler Sliding Centre.
“Jenna’s result aids in the development of the high-performance culture being established in Whistler,” said high-performance director Walter Corey. “Jenna demonstrates that by providing youth athletes with access to facilities and programs, Canada can deliver more medal winners.”
Spencer will race at home in March when Whistler hosts the Canadian Youth Championships.