Four Hay River speedskaters took to the ice in Yellowknife earlier this month for the NWT Territorial Championships bringing home great experiences and some hardware for their trouble.
“There were skaters there from all the clubs, even Cambridge Bay,” said coach Kirstin Mahler. “The competition was as wide as it gets in the territory, and it’s really nice for the kids to go up against others their own speed. They often don’t really get to do that in their home clubs.”
While Jack Irwin, Nicole Irwin and Josee Touesnard all put up good numbers and improved from race to race, it was Jack Coombs who came home with a bronze medal in his division.
“It felt glorious, there’s no other way to describe it,” he told The Hub.
Coombs said that he wasn’t nervous before competing, mostly because he has been to competitions with his team before, and even those from other communities are familiar.
“We always see the same people,” he said. “So it’s always fun to see friends and fun to go to the championships every year.”
Mahler said that while all the races were enjoyable to watch, Coombs’ was a neck-and-neck battle. She said she was glad to see him having to defend every corner. The two skaters that came ahead of him were from Yellowknife which typically has better facilities and more coaches than the communities.
Mahler also said that a large part of the experience for the skaters is off the ice, when they get to befriend fellow athletes from other communities. Normally, the club takes more than four skaters to the capital for the final race of the year but some athletes decided not to go after not being able to get on the ice for a month because of the ongoing municipal strike action.
“The championships are always a great way to end the season,” said Mahler. “I was really proud of all the kids. Even if they weren’t making personal bests, they were getting faster from their heat to the final, which is great to see.”
Normally, there would be a few more weeks of skating before the actual end of the season but with the Don Stewart Recreation Centre not being open to user groups, the championships served as that end this year.
“It’s good. it’s always our last race of the year, and this year it really ended on a high note,” Mahler said. “It makes you look forward to the next season.”
— Sarah Ladik