The Williams Lake Bullets Speed Skating Association wants to share its need for speed with the community.
This month, in partnership with Black Press Media, the BC Speed Skating Association is launching Speed Week throughout the province: an initiative to create overall awareness for speed skating in B.C. and to create an event that can grow year after year to bring speed skating into the spotlight locally.
In Williams Lake, the Bullets have been busy preparing a fun event they want the entire community to participate in on Tuesday, Dec. 10 from 3:30 to 6:30 p.m. at the Cariboo Memorial Recreation Complex.
Dubbed the ‘Fastest Racer Challenge,’ the Speed Week event will crown the fastest racer in Williams Lake and will be a fundraiser for the WLSSA.
Residents of all ages are invited to race as a team or individually to attempt to secure the title, and will skate in age categories or as part of a corporate team, challenging others across the province and in the community for the fastest time.
The WLSSA has invited local RCMP, firefighters, hockey players, figure skaters and schools to meet on the ice Dec. 10 to show what Williams Lake can do.
Participants are asked to bring skates, a helmet and gloves.
Adults will be $2 per lap, while children are $1 per lap.
Tracy Beaton, who took over as president of the WLSSA this season, said everyone within the club is looking forward to showcasing the sport.
“We’ve already had the Esquimalt speed skating club challenge us, so it will be us northerners versus the islanders and it should make for some good, healthy competition, which is always good,” Beaton said, noting all times from Speed Week will be posted on the BC Speed Skating Association’s website.
“And we hope to get some support for our club. All proceeds will stay here in Williams Lake at the club level. We’d like to see all ages out to participate.”
Currently, the Bullets have 15 competitive speed skaters training with the club and one head coach, Tania Lauren.
Lauren stressed how far the sport and the club have come locally in Williams Lake since it was brainstormed in September of 2011 by Yvonne Hauk.
“Yvonne actually picked kids up from their elementary school to allow them to practice after school,” Lauren said, adding the club hosted mini meets once a month encouraging skaters’ personal growth in the sport, despite having no equipment and practicing with hockey skates.
During Christmas time in 2011 the club was gifted some equipment from Olympic medalist speed skater Denny Morrison’s dad, who was involved with the Fort St. John speed skating club.
“He was going through all Denny’s old skates and equipment and decided to bestow it to the Bullets,” Lauren said.
“In our humble beginnings we didn’t have any mats (along the hockey arena boards) so we were focusing on technique, not speed so much, but the kids were racing and having fun.”
2018 proved to be a milestone year for the club as it hosted its first speed skating meet in Williams Lake.
“It takes over 40 volunteers to officiate and run a speed skating meet and we are very excited to have gotten to the point where we are able to do it,” she said.
“We have had so much help from all our surrounding clubs, as well as BCSSA. We acquired materials from a disbanded club and then, last year, got more from Prince George so we have enough now to host a level 2 meet. Prince George will be bringing down some of their half mats as they have some of their older, faster skaters coming to race at our meet and support us and they require extra padding.”
She added Kamloops, Fort St. James and Vernon have helped the club tremendously with coaching development.
“It has been such a positive experience developing a speed skating club because of the tight-knit, friendly, extremely helpful and generous people that make up the family that is speed skating in B.C.,” Lauren said.
“We have also had many generous Williams Lake businesses who have helped get our club to this point.”
Three of the club’s competitive skaters, meanwhile, made the long trek north to Dawson Creek during the weekend for the BC Winter Games Zone 8 Qualifier.
Ty Lauren, 16, Leah Lauren, 14, and Henry Beaton, 12, all competed at the event, testing their speed against some of the fastest skaters in the region.
Ty put his rocket-like speed on display at the meet, winning all six of his events and racking up three personal best times in the process. Ty brought home first-place results in each of his two 500-metre, 400-metre and 1,500-metre races.
“I’m happy with my results and personal bests, particularly because we have a new trainer here in Williams Lake for dry-land (Tim Johnson) and it’s helping,” Ty said. “He’s working us hard but it’s good.”
His most impressive result, he said, was racing the 400-metre in 41.65 seconds.
Ty’s sister, Leah, meanwhile, recorded six personal bests in seven races.
Leah was second in both her heat and final in the 1500-metre race, was first in the 400-metre heat and third in the 400-metre final, was first in her 500-metre heat and finished in second in the 500-metre final.
Henry added he had the best meet of his young speed skating career since starting to train seriously in the sport last year.
In Dawson Creek Henry skated to several personal best and shaved 10 seconds off his 1,500-metre time to finish in 2:57.44.
He said he now has his sights on the BC Cup 2 in two weeks in Richmond where he’ll have an opportunity to qualify for the BC Winter Games.
Ty and Leah, who are ineligible to qualify for the Games because they competed last year, have applied to be athlete mentors at the event, being held from Feb. 19-24, 2020, in Fort St. John.
“The reason we competed in Dawson Creek was so we could be seated higher for the BC Cup No. 2 in two weeks,” Leah said.
The BC Cup 2 will be held at the Richmond Olympic Oval from Dec. 14-15.
All three skaters are also hoping to get as many people and businesses out as they can to next Tuesday’s Speed Week challenge in the lakecity.
“It’s going to be a fun event and hopefully we can promote the sport a little bit,” Ty said.
Henry noted he’d like to see some of the community’s youth take part.
“You can prove your speed and how fast you are against some of your friends,” he said.
Leah added residents may be surprised at just how fun speed skating can be.
“Potentially, you might think it’s fun and, who knows? You might just find a new sport to participate in. It’s just something really fun you can do in Williams Lake.”
For more on the Bullets visit their website at www.wlbullets.com or look them up on Facebook at ‘Williams Lake Speed Skating Association.’