Whitehorse Daily Star

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Photo by Dustin Cook

MAKING THE TURN – Whitehorse Rapids speedskater Dominic Lefebvre completes a turn during a time trial race.

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Photo by Dustin Cook

Jean-Paul Lefebvre eyes the straightaway after rounding a bend.

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Photo by Dustin Cook

Kieran Horton rounds a turn during the 200-metre time trial race for the Whitehorse Rapids Speed Skating Club Sunday evening at the Canada Games Centre.

Speedskaters compete virtually at time trials

A club with one of the largest age ranges in Whitehorse,

By Dustin Cook on February 27, 2018

A club with one of the largest age ranges in Whitehorse, the Rapids Speed Skating Club ensured there was competition for everyone at their recent time trial meet Sunday – even if that meant virtual competition.

The masters members of the team raced against the clock in several different races as part of a larger North American competition.

The first of its kind, the North American Virtual Short Track Masters TT Challenge allows speedskaters from across the continent to compete against one another without having to travel to or organize a meet of their own.

Rapids master speedster Barry Sugden was one of the athletes who stumbled upon the event and thought it would be a great idea for the older skaters in the club.

“It’s one of those things we found it on the Internet somehow. We’re not even sure who saw it first but it was like wow that’s a pretty interesting idea,” he said.

So on Sunday evening, paired with the scheduled team time trial races, five masters racers clocked their times to submit for the competition.

“We send the times in and they compile them and see who’s the fastest and it’s all in age group five-year brackets,” Sugden said. “It’s kind of a way to get masters who are not going to travel or organize a meet for themselves to compare themselves.”

The North American event is organized by the Buffalo Speedskating Club out of New York and Milton Speed Skating in Ontario.

All competitors had the month of February to send in their times for their designated races based on age group.

Because it is a virtual event, results won’t be available quite as quickly as a meet where everyone is present in the same rink.

Results for the competition will be posted March 31 with awards going to the top three finishers in each age category and distance, the top three racers overall in each age category and the top overall club.

As the masters racers took their turns on the Canada Games Centre rink, all the younger skaters crowded the boards to cheer on their teammates and get their high five from the racers on the track.

And it was the same support shown when the up-and-coming skaters took the track.

Eight of the athletes who competed were testing their times in the races they will be competing in shortly at the Arctic Winter Games.

The team will be sending 10 athletes to the Northwest Territories for the AWG out of the maximum 14 for the sport.

Racing in their respective divisions, the three junior male, two juvenile male and three juvenile female skaters took part in the four races they will be representing the Yukon in.

Rapids head coach Phil Hoffman said before the second round of time trials for the season that the main purpose is for the younger skaters to have a taste of competition.

But for this one in particular, the event had an important aspect for all its members.

The AWG team had the chance to test themselves and see their times headed into the March event and the masters athletes were able to have their races officially timed to send their results in for the virtual competition before the month came to a close.

Hoffman said he has been working with the 10-member AWG team to prepare them for the upcoming event.

Since speedskating was not included in the 2016 Games in Greenland, only one member of the team has competed at the Games in the past.

Junior male skater Micah Taggart-Cox competed at the AWG in Fairbanks, Alaska four years ago.

This year he will be joined by his two younger brothers Caius and Lucas both competing in the juvenile male division.

But they won’t be the only siblings on the team. Simon and Joshua Lauer will join Micah in the junior male division.

Lisa Freeman, Adelle Anderson and Tori Vollmer will be the three representatives in the juvenile female division for the team.

“We’ve been working toward hopefully peaking before the Games and working on relays too,” Hoffman said about the team’s practices. “We don’t get to do that all the time as a team.”

With three racers in three of the four divisions, the Yukon will have relay teams in every division but junior female with Emily Robbins as the only Yukon competitor.

Individually, the skaters will compete in four races ranging in distance from 400 metres for the juvenile divisions up to the 1,500-metre race for all athletes.

After cheering on the AWG athletes in their Team Yukon suits, it was time for the young beginners to show their skills on the track.

Nine up-and-coming skaters took their turn on the ice in shorter distance races to test themselves on past times.

Having not raced in an official timed setting in a while, many personal-best times were set in these distances for the young athletes.

But before the AWG, many of the skaters will be heading to Calgary for an R U Fast competition this upcoming weekend at the Olympic Oval.

For this race, Sugden and a few other masters competitors will also be joining the squad for the trip.

“We’ve gone for quite a few years, this will probably be my 7th or 8th time down to Calgary,” Sugden said of his first out-of-territory competition of the skating season.

“This is just kind of an end of the season wrap up event.”

But not for the AWG skaters. For them it is another test against themselves as well as other competitors from outside the territory as they gear up to represent the Yukon.

And even before the athletes head to N.W.T., the club will host the Yukon Speedskating Championships on March 13.

Very close to the Games, this will again be a chance for the younger team skaters to compete and take home awards for the skill and knowledge they gained throughout the season.

The event in Calgary will be one of the first competitions for some of the younger skaters on the team who will have the AWG crew and masters there to guide them,

With all the support from the benches as athletes watched their friends and teammates race during the team trials, there is no doubt no matter who is racing and no matter how – be it virtually or at the upcoming AWG – the Rapids club will be cheering them on however they can.

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