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Elks put on showcase at national championship

It was a weekend of smiles and personal bests for the Fort St. John Elks as they played host to the national youth long track speed skating championships.

It was a weekend of smiles and personal bests for the Fort St. John Elks as they played host to the national youth long track speed skating championships.

Max Wu, Tara Ashrafi, and Erik Hansen were all on the oval as part of Team BC, competing in the Canadian Championships with the best up and coming 11 to 13 year old skaters from across the country.

“It’s definitely great to see the Elks out there representing,” said meet coordinator Kate North. “Anytime you make it to a national level event, that is amazing, amazing work. We're very proud of them.”

Collectively, the three local skaters earned 2,301 points through the weekend, and though none medalled, all had good races and set personal bests: Wu by three seconds in the 1000m, Hansen by nine seconds in the 1000m and six seconds in the 1500m, and Ashrafi in all of her distances.

Following the events, Ashrafi is 8th in the Youth 12 Female category in Canada, while Wu is 8th and Hansen 13th in the Youth 12 Male category nationally.

"This was a great event for them and they did superb," said North. "When they get to this competition again next year, because I would expect all three of them to be representing B.C. again next year, they'll have that little bit more experience under their belts."

The Canadian Championships were the third major meet the Elks have hosted this season after the first Long Track Canada Cup in December and the BC Long Track Speed Skating Championships in January. More than 250 athletes from across the country came to the city for the three events.

“That’s pretty big in terms of our club and the community, so that was really exciting or us,” said North. “Everybody did a superb job. They kept the energy levels really high all the way through this event, and so it was a very successful year of hosting for us.”

Of the national championships, North says the most heartwarming part of the weekend was seeing the camaraderie among the skaters.

“They all come with their family and they come with a big collection of coaches because they're representing their provinces, and it’s the highest level of competition that they can get to for their age group. It was a big, big deal for the skaters,” said North. "There were smiles everywhere, certainly there were some tears when people weren't achieving what they expected, but then they quickly recovered."

“You could see kids that are competing between provinces, there were fist bumps and high fives, which is just such a great heartwarming thing to see,” she said.

“Even though on the line they're competing against each other, as soon as they came off the line they were having a great social event and getting to know the group across Canada. It was fantastic.”

2023 Canada Youth Long Track results

• Max Wu
500m Olympic - 47.502
300m Mass Start - 30.762
1000m Mass Start - 1:37.396
1500m Mass Start - 2:47.583

• Tara Ashrafi
500m Olympic - 48.104
300m Mass Start - 30.595
1000m Mass Start - 1:36.140
1500m Mass Start - 2:33.108

• Erik Hansen
500m Olympic - 50.632
300m Mass Start - 31.721
1000m Mass Start - 1:43.183
1500m Mass Start - 2:37.999

Elsewhere in Canada…

Elks skater Sidney Bennie was in Calgary over the weekend for the 2023 Winter Classic, where she had season bests in all of her distances.

In the 500m, she did it twice, finishing with times of 45.79 on Friday, and then beating that with a time of 45.04 on Sunday.

Same with the 1000m, Bennie finished with a time of 1:31.06 on Saturday and beat that with a time of 1:29.76 on Sunday.

In the 1500m, Bennie finished with a season-best time of 2:21.75, and in the 3000m a time of 5:01.05.

Coming up for the Elks…

Though it's the end of the season for the 11 to 13 year olds in long track, there’s still lots of action and a busy end to the season coming up for the Elks.

That includes regional time trials, two more Canada Cup competitions in Calgary, and North says Ashrafi is most likely heading to the provincial short track competition in March.

As well, a good group of Elks will continue practice before going to Prince Edward Island and the Maritimes for the 2023 Canada Winter Games later this month.

Brooke Braun, Hannah North, Sidney Bennie, Jack Hanson, Matthew Mitchell, Kieran Hanson, and Nick Guliov all qualified for the Team BC long track teams following selection trials.

“We have great representation there,” said North. “In fact, Elks skaters, they actually fill seven out of the eight spots of skaters going for long track speed skating to the Canada Winter Games, so that's amazing."

The Games begin Feb. 18.

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