Alberta Winter Games are a mere two weeks away, and the Banff/Canmore Speed Skating club is looking fast and ready to challenge the best in the west.
Competing on home ice, the club hosted its annual meet at the Canmore Rec Centre, Saturday (Jan. 30), which the local skaters used to work on race strategy and technique.
Zak Zawada, Josh Holthuis, Marcus DeBoer, Quinn Williams, Finn Borstmayer and Troy Flood have all qualified for the Alberta Winter Games, which take place in Medicine Hat, Feb. 13-16.
“The kids did well. There were some thrills and spills. That is part of racing,” said head coach Ian Mellors. “The more experienced boys tried some new race strategies. Some worked, some didn’t.”
AWG-qualified athletes were all strong. Borstmayer took home a gold and silver, Zawada won silver and two bronze medals, DeBoer and Flood both won silver and Holthuis took bronze.
Holthuis, DeBoer and Zawada are chasing top-10 performances at the Games, while Williams, Borstmayer and Flood will make their speed skating AWG debut in Medicine Hat. Since they were working on strategy, there were no personal bests at the Canmore meet, but Mellors said there was plenty of good racing.
“The kids were looking good. Even when they weren’t setting personal bests, they were racing well,” Mellors said.
In order to make competitions more appealing to young athletes, the club changed the rules at the meet. Instead of racing six different distances – which is the traditional format – skaters had the choice of racing their three favourite distances.
“The kids liked the choice. It helped set up some competitive races. We have some kids who prefer sprints and some who prefer distance. I think this is the first time anyone has tried the format,” Mellors said.
The goal of the format change was to make racing more enjoyable for younger athletes,and give them control over their weekend. Since the skaters only competed in their favourite distances, the mood around the rink was light.
“It made a better racing experience and environment. We wanted to open it up, instead of dictating what races they had to do,” Mellors said.
“There will be some things we tweak about it, but we were very happy with the meet.”
Many new racers also took to the ice, as the club continues to grow. Emma Hendry, Leo Bowden-Buzzee, Max Wilz, Lili Wilz, Evan Beamish and Conrad Boiger also suited up for the local club, and faired extremely well.