Peace Region speed skating got underway this weekend as the Dawson Creek Speed Skating Club (DCSC) hosted the Mile Zero Challenge this Saturday at Memorial Arena.
Approximately 50 skaters from Fort St. John, Grand Prairie, and Peace River were in Dawson Creek for the first inter-club short track meet of the season.
For many of the skaters, ranging from Active Start (4 year olds) to junior racers (15+), it was their first taste of competition.
"There is a formality, and if they keep skating, it does get pretty strict when they reach the BC's, the Canadians, and the Nationals," said meet coordinator, Nicola Brown. "Might as well start young, and hopefully they've got it down pat when they reach those levels."
"The kids understand, they practice for races out there on the ice during practice, and if they are new, we sit down with them and explain the rules," added Brown. "What they really are trying to do is get their best times."
For Fort St. John Elks' head coach, Richard Stickel, meets such as the Mile Zero Challenge is integral to all skater's development
"The kids need to race, we all need each other for the clubs to be strong in the region, and very supportive of each other, that's a very big thing," said Stickel. "You really need each other, you can only be good if you have good competition, everybody holds each other up another level."
Despite it still being early in the skating season, Stickel was impressed by what he saw from each of the clubs.
"In the area everybody looks strong, and that's nice to see. We need every team skating well, and everyone seems to be," added Stickel. "Dawson Creek has a lot of really good young skaters again, they are rebuilding, but things look to be coming along. Grande Prairie looks strong, and Peace River has some really nice skaters."
"It has been really good competition, really good races," he noted. "We [Elks] had a lot of personal bests, and that is what we are really looking for, more than where they place."
Points were awarded to skaters, toward their season total, based on their placing in each class, with 1,000 points going to race winners. Division 1 racers (Junior and Train to Train categories, ages 12-14) skated in the 400 m, 1,500 m, and the 200 m pursuit.
Dawson Creek's Pauline Sutherland was the top girl skater in Division 1. She won both the 400 m, and 1,500 m finals, and ended the day with 2,241 points to top the division. Her sister, Hadley, placed second in the 1,500 m and recorded the fastest time, 0:22.36, in the 200 m pursuit. She earned 2,057 total points. Hannah Brunn, 13, also of Dawson Creek, took fourth spot in the 200 m, and fifth place in the 400 m, and 1,500 m.
The Elks' Renee Kalkman placed third in the 400 m, 1,500 m, and 200 m pursuit, scoring 1,998 points, and Connor Johnson recorded the fastest 1,500 m time of the day, finishing with a 2:47.15.
Fort St. John's Eryn Stickel, 12, placed third overall in Division 2 with 2,209 points. Stickel won the 1,500 m with a time of 3:18.72.
Other notable finishes came from Elks' Nate Burchell and Joshua Telizyn, who placed second and third respectively in Division 3; and Nicholas Guliov of the Elks racked up 2,964 points for a second place finish in Division 4, just ahead of DCSC counterpart Aaron Cameron, who collected 2,925 points on the day.
The next inter-club meet is in Grande Prairie at the end of November.