With the first snowfall of the year signaling the coming winter, Hay River’s speedskaters were back on the ice over the weekend.Thirty-five skaters from Hay River, Fort Smith and Fort Simpson took part in the Hay River speedskating club’s kick-off camp Saturday and Sunday at the Hay River arena and club coach Harry Scheper said the numbers are encouraging.
“It’s going very well. The kids are having a great time and we’re having a great time. We have 35 kids this year. It’s a really big improvement over last year, which is really nice to see,” Scheper said.
A few skaters from Fort Simpson attended a training camp in Yellowknife at the end of August, but for most of the skaters, this weekend’s camp was their first time back on the blades since last season.
“For some of these older kids, it’s about remembering the technique they were taught last year. Lots of edge work, remembering where their feet are,” Scheper said.
But the main focus for the camp is on having a good time.
“We’re focusing on fun. That’s the big one. For the younger ones, it’s all about getting a real feel for where they need to be and how to move on the ice,” the coach said.
Last season had an obvious goal at the end for the kids to aim for – the Arctic Winter Games in Whitehorse, Yukon.
The Hay River club sent one skater to those games.
“We were fortunate enough to have one of our kids go to that. Kaed Blake went and got some medals out of the deal. He’s made some huge strides in the last couple years,” Scheper said.
But that was almost eight months ago, and Blake said being back on the ice is a little bit daunting.
“It’s been pretty good. It’s a little bit different, just getting used to it again. We’re working on the basics again, but it’s starting to come back. It’s all muscle memory,” the 14-year-old skater said.
With no Arctic Winter Games to focus on this year, Blake said he’s looking to the Canada West short track championships in Canmore, Alta. in March as his big goal.
For the rest of the club, Scheper said the focus will be on building from last year’s success and getting more kids signed up to race.
“We’re still a small club, so we’re looking to keep growing the club and getting more kids involved. We’ll be back to regular schedules next week and our first big meet is in Yellowknife in December. Most of the kids will go to that, and then we’ll go again in March,” Scheper said.