Youth luge team at Winter Sports Complex provides fun and inspiration


by Cynthia Price
Legal News

Twelve-year-old Griffin Lownds is a bit of an addict.

But not to drugs or alcohol — quite the contrary. Griffin says that the first time he whooshed down the luge at the Muskegon Winter Sports Complex (MWSC) he was hooked.

“I like going down the track, the rush of the wind,” he says. “My favorite part is the speed.”

Since competitive luge racing is often measured in the one-hundredths of a second, sometimes even one-thousandths, increasing speed is the name of the game for the youth luge team, coached by Doug Ogden, who is American Sports Education-certified, and USA Luge-certified.

Young Lownds first heard about the luge team four years ago when a flyer was passed out at his school in the Whitehall School District.

Many know there is a luge track at the complex, but many are not aware of just how unusual that is. It is one of only three “artificial” (as in, refrigerated) tracks in the U.S., to include the Olympic tracks at Park City, Utah, and Lake Placid. N.Y. There is also a “natural” track at Negaunee in the UP.

Ogden says that though more people on the northside of town are aware of the track, he would love to see kids from all over the county join the team. (Note: getting to the MWSC via Giles Road does not take long.)

The MWSC was started  in 1984 by businessman and legislator Mike Knight and others from the community. According to MWSC Community Engagement Director Bill Bailey, one of the earliest team members was Mark Grimmette, who is still the most decorated United States luge athlete, having won two medals in the Olympics and nine in the World Luge Cup. (Current Executive Director Jim Rudicil was part of the early team as well.)

Now the Program Director for USA Luge in? Lake Placid, Grimmette coaches the Muskegon Youth Luge team when they visit there twice a year.

The luge track itself, shorter than those at Lake Placid and Park City, was designed by Frank Masley, an Olympic luger himself.

Ogden points out that safety is at the heart of the luge program, and staff will not allow a young luger to do any more than he or she is ready for.

The MWSC offers not only the youth luge for ages 8-16, but an adult league that picks up where the youth leaves off. In addition, as Ogden and Bailey point out, there are open luge slots (for which there is a charge) on the weekends which are mostly filled by out-of-towners. In fact, MWSC was largely responsible for Muskegon’s inclusion in a list by Redbook magazine of ten places to make “incredible” vacation memories with your family.

The article also suggests visiting the USS Silversides and getting a meal at Fatty Lumpkins Sandwich Shack (Watch Us Go!).

As far as Griffin Lownds, he says he is going to luge for as long as he can. He may eventually join the ranks of other youth lugers who have at least partially followed in Grimmette’s footsteps. Both Jake Hyrns and Riley Storr have gone on to become part of the USA Luge teams.

Ogden will invite talented lugers to participate in the State Games of Michigan on Feb. 4, 2018, and winners of those competitions will be invited to Lake Placid to be screened for participation in the USA Luge Junior National camps and possible the Junior National Team.

The season runs Jan. 4 through March 8 in 2018; there will be an end-of-season party with awards on March 8. The cost is $80.

To join the local lugers, visit