Six local speed skaters ages 12 to 14 have earned spots at the upcoming Canadian Age Class Long Track Championships in Winnipeg after finishing in top spots at the 2013 B.C. Long Track Championships Jan. 26 and 27.
The Fort St. John Elks Speed Skating Club hosted clubs from across B.C. for the provincial championships at the Pomeroy Sport Centre over the weekend and will be sending six skaters to nationals.
“It was a really good weekend,” said Elks’ coach Richard Stickel. “We just keep seeing that improvement and in that younger group seeing lots of potential.”
“Everybody just keeps improving, you can really see the improvement in them and they’re really thinking about what it is they need to do. You don’t expect to always go out and win but these guys have really come in.”
Five girls and one boy will be making their way to Winnipeg next month after earning places in their age groups this weekend.
Renee Kalkman was the only local gold medalist after having a perfect run in the 100, 500, 3,000 m and 300 m Mass Start to finish with 4,000 points in the Female 12 division.
“She won every race handedly,” Stickel said. “She just continues to get better and better and we’ve been seeing it for a couple of years now. She has a lot of talent, is a very nice skater, really easy going, and it’s just another weekend. She’s been skating like this for a couple years now.”
“If she sticks with speed skating she can go a long way. She’s got all the tools right now. She’s very strong, has all the aerobic capacity and is very smart too.”
Fort St. John’s Eryn Stickel won bronze in the T2T F12 category, just behind Kamloops’ Holly Antifay.
In the T2T F 13 division Elks Theresa Martins and Kierra Brule finished with silver and iron medals respectively, while Mikayla Guenther came fifth in the T2T F 14 category with 2,418 points. Colton Johnson won a bronze medal in the T2T Men’s 14 age group with 2,664 points.
Clubs from Prince George, Kamloops, Dawson Creek, Burnaby, Fort Nelson Nechako Lake, Vernon and Grande Prairie took over the indoor oval for the weekend, not only competing in the T2T competition, but also in the Olympic Style Open Long Track Championships for more advanced skaters like Jay Morrison and Connor Johnson, as well as the FUNale divisions for younger athletes.
“We’re really happy,” Stickel said. “Everything went really smoothly. We really have to thank the City and the arena staff. The ice was really good again, and everything went really well for us.”
In the Active Start division, Fort St. John’s David Potgieter came first overall with 2,816 points with Brayden Rowe close behind with 2,359. Brody Mickey came fourth and Nolan Hull fifth in the category.
Elks’ Yuna Lovell took the FUNale Division 1 division with a points total of 3,632 and three first-place finishes. Fort St. John’s Josh Telyzyn was a close second with 3,359 points.
“She’s’ a phenom, she’s going to be very good,” Stickel said. “Josh is doing very well, too.”
In the high performance Open categories, Jay Morrison took gold in the Open Male division with 154.070 with Connor Johnson second with 172.222 points.
Jacob Graham, who’s preparing for the Canadian Junior Championships this weekend in Quebec, took it easy, skating the 500 m and 1,000 and finishing sixth.
“I just wanted to come here for a bit of race prep and stay on the edge,” Graham said on Sunday. “I was still going all out, I wanted to feel the pain in my legs and that kind of stuff and try to overcome that and get my speed. I still treated as if I would for any race, it was just physically and mentally to prepare myself [for Quebec].”
To play it safe, Graham avoided racing the 3,000 m with Morrison and Johnson.
“I think it was a little too much strain on my legs for Quebec only three days after this, so I didn’t want to push it too hard,” he said, “Just get the race experience without having to work that hard.”
Stickel liked what he saw from Graham over the weekend.
“He only did the 500 and 1,000 ms this weekend but he had such good skates,” he said. “I think his second 500 and 1,000 were the best races I’ve seen him do. His times were really good, and I think he’ll do well [in Quebec].”
In the Female Open Masters division, Fort St. John’s Heather McCracker took gold and Barb Polehoykie finished fourth. Ken Johnson won silver in the Men’s Open Masters division with 197.922 points overall.
“I want to thank everybody,” Stickel said. “We had the arena shut down for four days and at the hockey tournament they didn’t ring the bells and we appreciate that. We realize we did cause [some disruption], but we appreciate the community’s support.”
Graham leaves for Quebec City on Wednesday morning to compete in the Canadian Junior Championships Feb. 1 – 3. Fort St. John’s six T2T skaters will head to Winnipeg Feb. 9 for the Canadian Age Class Long Track Championships.