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U.S. natural luge member Katie Cookman of Marquette competes in a Federation of International Luge World Cup race at Latzfons, Italy, held Jan. 6-7, 2021, last week. She placed 18th in the women’s division. (Photo courtesy @photolove Miriam Jennewein)

NEGAUNEE – With the weather hopefully cooperating, the US Natural Track Luge Team will leave the United States for Europe on Christmas Day.

With four of its five athletes representing Marquette and Negaunee and its coach hailing from Escanaba, the half-dozen strong group will fly from Green Bay, Wisconsin and arrive in Vienna, Austria.

The athletes include Zane Farnsworth, 21, of Marquette; Torrey Cookman, 18, of Marquette; Katie Cookman, 15, of Marquette; and Jillian Best, 14, of Negaunee.

The fifth athlete is Jacob Sterk (16) from St. Michael, Minnesota, and the team is coached by Keith Whitman of Escanaba.

After arriving in Vienna, the group will travel to another Austrian city, Judenberg-Winterleiten, according to USA Natural Track Luge Team spokeswoman Laura Farnsworth of Marquette.

The Junior team of Torrey and Katie Cookman, along with Sterk, are scheduled to compete in the first Junior World Cup competition of the season in Winterleiten on Friday and next Saturday.

From there the trio travel to Passeier, Italy, near the Austrian border, for the second race.

Farnsworth, a Senior level competitor, will also be at Winterleiten to start before heading to Mariezell-St. Sebastian, Austria.

Best was invited to spend a week-long International Luge Federation sponsored school in Jaufental, Italy.

The racers will also take part in events in the Austrian city of Umhausen and the Italian cities of Jaufental, Seiser Alm and Deutschnofen.

Then, these racers will head to Vatra Dornei, Romania in early February for competition that includes the 24th FIL Luge World Championships, and one final stop in Umhausen, Austria, before returning to the US

The US Natural Track Team was introduced to the sport and trains at Lucy Hill in Negaunee, operated by the Upper Peninsula Luge Club.

The International Luge Federation – abbreviated FIL as the Federation International De Luge in French – is officially recognized by the International Olympic Committee as the world federation in luge and is also recognized as the highest authority in the sport.

Fifty-two federations are members of the FIL.

For more information about the UP Luge Club, visit online at, for more about the World Cup races, visit

Information compiled by Journal Sports Editor Steve Brownlee. His email address is

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