The Williams Lake Bullets have been speeding along relatively smoothly in the lakecity, largely unaffected by provincial COVID-19 restrictions.
With 11 speed skaters ranging in age from five to 17, the speed skating association has been working hard to ensure safe, productive training sessions at the Cariboo Memorial Recreation Complex since the ice was available in the early fall.
“We can’t go to any meets is the only thing really different,” said Williams Lake Bullets Speed Skating Association head coach Tania Lauren. “We’re doing a lot of skill building, we’ve been testing times … the kids are super happy to just be able to continue skating, and everyone’s glad to be out on the ice.”
Lauren said while no competitive meets are allowed under current restrictions, the club has been able to implement more “pursuit-style” races during practices.
In pursuit events just two skaters race: one on each side of the ice, then race against time, allowing for proper physical distancing.
“With the new regulations all we can do is the pursuit and when we’re skating we have to maintain at least three metres distance,” Lauren said. “In January, depending on what happens with the updated guidelines, we’re really hoping to get some long track going.”
She said at the beginning of the season cohorts were formed between speed skating associations in the province and, despite Prince George not being in Williams Lake’s cohort, hopes to attend a long track meet in the new year barring any further restrictions.
“They have a long track outside, so it could be a little different with what’s allowed, and we’re keeping our fingers crossed for that one,” Lauren said. “The kids do miss the competition and, unless they change the 50 people gathering we’re not going to be doing any meets for the foreseeable future just due to the amount of volunteers it takes to run one meet.”
On Tuesday, Dec. 8, during a regular Bullets practice Lauren was surprised and honoured after being presented with a national, Speed Skating Canada award by club members and volunteers.
Lauren, who helped found the Williams Lake Bullets Speed Skating Association in 2012 and has seen it grow from a fledgling program into one producing provincial-level skaters, was awarded the Coaching Award of Excellence for those who have made meaningful contributions to the sport of speed skating in the role of coach.
The award criteria recognizes exceptional achievement of the coach’s athletes with a strong link to the coach’s training program, innovative programming or initiatives that drive athlete recruitment or retention and coaching techniques that contribute to athlete development on and off the ice.
“I guess a bunch of members from the club nominated me and sent it to Speed Skating Canada, and it was an honour people would take the time out of their crazy busy schedules to do that,” Lauren said.
“It’s pretty cool. I went back and looked at some of the different people who’ve gotten it and I think only five coaches from B.C. have ever received it.”
Lauren’s son, Ty, and daughter, Leah, are both speed skaters with the Bullets team, as well. Ty is in his final season with the Bullets as he is set to graduate from high school this year, while Leah still has a few more seasons.
“The core group of people we have in this club are really great, and we’ve made the best of it and I’m hoping we can expand soon once everything kind of gets back to normal,” Lauren said. “We’re definitely still around and hopefully it carries on.”