The immediate future for several skaters in the Central Lions Speed Skating Club is the races at the Alberta Winter Games in Canmore this coming weekend.
For a handful of the group it will be their first taste of competition at this level but for a few others they’ve been down this track and are looking for more.
“I went last year and I was pretty excited and now that I know what it’s like I’m way more pumped this year and I’m just ready to race,” said 15-year-old Tess Pearman who has been racing for nine years.
Her teammate, Bryndelle MacDougall, who has been skating for four years, was at the games two years ago and had a different experience than what she might get from this year’s edition of the games.
“I was a bit of a newbie so I was just going for the fun, learning and meeting new people,” she said.
These games can also work as a springboard for some of the members a little ways down the track explained Head Coach Shawna Pearman.
“For some of them they will for sure be shooting for going to the Canada West championships or the Canadian long track championships,” she said. “Down the road, next year is the 2015 Canada Winter Games. There certainly are a couple of kids on this team that could qualify for those events as well as shooting for our provincial team.”
These games will have a bit of a twist to them as they will not be long track skating but instead short track due to the flooding in the area during this past June.
“It’s a first. We’re on an outdoor pond. We’ve never had short track outside, we’ve always had it in an arena but due to circumstances they couldn’t accommodate short track speed skating with the number of arenas that are required,” said Shawna. “We’ve never done it before so it will be interesting. I’m excited and I think the kids will be excited because it’s an unique experience.”
She added being outdoors for the short track races which ranges from 200m to 3,000m will be a first but the team does some training outside already so making an adjustment to the weather shouldn’t be a problem.
With 15 skaters ranging in age from 11 to 17 the coach feels there is a good chance they will return from the games with some medals as the club is a very strong one but the medals aren’t the focus at the games from her perspective.
“Best performances is what’s really important for us, that the kids go out and perform to their best,” she said.
So while skaters like Tess and MacDougall have some experience under their belts, others are headed into this with eyes wide open so the pair are passing along their sage advice.
“Just mostly have fun and don’t be nervous when you’re out there,” said Tess. “And just make friends there so when you’re on the ice you’re just skating but when you’re off the ice you have friends to be with.”
MacDougall had a slightly different take on how to handle the games for the first time.
“It’s very overwhelming,” she said. “All the different sports are there, not just us so I feel they really just need to realize it’s just another meet and just go for the fun.”