The long track speed skating season got under way this past weekend as Fort St. John Elks Speed Skating Club hosted a long track interclub meet on Saturday, Dec. 15, welcoming clubs from Dawson Creek, Grande Prairie and Prince George to the Pomeroy Sport Centre.
Five divisions hit the indoor oval on Saturday to compete in races varying from 100 to 3,000 m distances, and topping each division were Fort St. John skaters of all ages.
“We’ve seen some really good skates and some really good times from the kids,” said Elks coach Richard Stickel.
“One thing we’re trying to do, especially with our 12 to 14-year-old kids, is do that 3,000 at the end of the day because there are so few chances for them to compete in that. If you go to a Canada Cup or a big meet you have to meet a time standard, and it’s hard to do a time standard if you don’t race it, and so just getting that experience and trying to do that in a competition was really one of the big things we wanted to do.”
Even though the flu and a blizzard in Prince George meant 15 to 20 regional skaters couldn’t attend, Stickel said the interclub had a good showing and was a good preparation for the long track provincials that the Elks will host in January.
Elks skater Connor Johnson topped Division 1 with 121.2 points overall, winning the 3,000-m race in a time of 4:42.57. Dawson Creek’s Jacob Graham who trains with the Elks, won both the 500 m and 1,000 m races, but did not skate the 3,000 m putting him last overall in points.
Second and third place in Division 1 went to Prince George skaters Rylan Gaudet and Carolina Hiller, while Dawson Creek’s Pauline Sutherland took fourth place with 133.9 points overall.
Elks’ Colton Johnson (90.7) and Sarah Graham (92.6) finished first and second in Division 2 while Dawson Creek’s Hannah Brunn finished fourth overall with 94.6 points, only 0.2 points off from third place, which went to Fort St. John’s Rachel Kalkman.
Division 3’s top three speed skaters were Fort St. John’s Ryan Potgieter, Brett Weber and Jordy Weber while Elks’ Yuna Lovell came first in Division 4 with 3,000 points after finishing first in the 200, 300 and 400 m finals. Joshua Telizyn finished second with 2,448 points.
Stickel added that the club is trying to prepare for the Canada Winter Games as well as the long track provincials and the Canada Cup #2 by getting its younger skaters used to the longer races, which can surprise even the most experienced speed skaters like Denny Morrison from time to time.
“It’s a hard race, you’re going to be exhausted at the end,” Stickel said about the 3,000. “For the most part they did really well, though.”
The Dawson Creek Speed Skating Club continues to train inside at Memorial Arena, as the outdoor oval reportedly has too much snow on it. They practice Tuesday and Thursday nights, and on Sundays.