By Rachel Psutka
Belleville played host to some of the fastest youth on two blades this weekend as the Quinte Blades speed skating club held the season’s fourth Ontario Cup at Yardmen Arena.
Competitors from across Ontario and as far as the United States took over the arena for two days to race on the short track for a chance to qualify for next month’s provincial championships in Kingston. It was the last of four qualifying meets in which the young athletes could compete for a spot in the provincials.
The Quinte Blades had five athletes in attendance for the meet: Helen Wismer, Maddison Wood, Ellie Anderson, Tristan Antoski, and Joshua Bateman.
Wismer ended up sixth in the open female category, while Wood and Anderson came in 16th and 19th respectively in the juvenile female category. Amongst the boys, Bateman came eighth in juvenile and Antoski rounded out the group with a ninth-place finish in pre-midget.
Qualifying for the meet is an achievement in itself, according to coach Laura Woodall.
“Every athlete has their individual goals. Attending certain events, like being able to qualify for an Ontario Cup, is a goal for many athletes,” said Woodall. “Anyone here today has to have a certain time and ranking.”
Woodall is hoping her athletes make the cut to go to provincials.
“We expect that at least three of the skaters are high enough on the points list,” she said.
With the season being well underway, Woodall praised the commitment of the skaters.
“The athletes are on ice three times a week, and that’s just their on-ice portion … A number of the athletes are also involved in school sports, which gives them cross training,” Woodall said.
Several of the more competitive Quinte-area youth competing last weekend have had excellent seasons.
“Ellie Anderson attended the marathon skate in Ottawa on Jan. 14. She raced in the four-kilometre, 10-kilometre, and for fun entered the 21-kilometre, just to see how long she could keep up. She won the under-19 category, and she’s 14, in a race she wasn’t even going to enter,” said Woodall.
“Another athlete, Josh Bateman, who is new to long-track, attended his first long-track competition last weekend in Ottawa and he won a silver medal in his age category. We can’t even train for long track because we skate inside an arena,” she noted.
As for the Belleville meet, Woodall said the venue is well-regarded among skaters.
“The city of Belleville is known for putting on a very good-quality event. The skaters like the ice at the Yardmen. It’s fast and they tend to really enjoy coming to race here.”
While the five athletes competing this weekend were holding their own and competing in A and B finals, the Quinte Blades is also host to a large contingent of both masters and young skaters who didn’t have categories to compete in at this event.
“That’s unique to the sport of speed skating, I think,” said Woodall. “These young people that are racing today also train with all the masters. It brings a really different dynamic to training and you break down the barriers that way.”