The jump up to the junior level in short-track speedskating can be a bumpy one.
“There was a lot more contact,” said Marsh Lake’s Micah Taggart-Cox. “I was taken out one time, but that’s OK. It was a good experience.”
Taggart-Cox and Rapids Speed Skating Club teammate Michael Ritchie tried their hand racing at the junior B level (ages 15 and 16) at the Western Elite Circuit #2 at the Richmond Olympic Oval in B.C., Jan. 13-15.
It was Taggart-Cox’s first meet in junior and the second for Ritchie, who is from Haines Junction.
“It was a bit different from what I normally race because junior and up race on the 111-metre track and below junior … race on the 100-metre track, and it’s a bit different,” said Taggart-Cox. “You don’t enter the corner as wide as you would on a 100-metre track, so you change your track pattern a bit.
“There were skaters from all across Canada … and skaters training in Calgary and Richmond at oval programs. So they train every day and race every weekend, so they’re quite experienced in racing.
“It was a lot different from racing in Yukon for sure.”
In speedskating it’s all about time. When asked about his finishes in Richmond, Taggart-Cox wasn’t so sure how he placed, but he was darn sure that he posted personal best times there.
The 15-year-old shaved more than two seconds off his 500-metre and cut almost four seconds off his 1,000-metre.
“I got them for both races, which was pretty exciting,” said Taggart-Cox.
“Racing against faster people, they get out ahead of me and I have somebody to chase who’s faster than me. There were people down there whose times were four seconds faster than my times, so they get out ahead and I try to catch them. If you’re leading, it’s hard to go as fast as you can.”
Ritchie, who was racing his first meet of the season, cut more than a second off his 1,000-metre time.
Taggart-Cox placed second in the F division of the 500-metre, was jostled in the semifinal of the 1,000-metre but took third in the D division, and placed third in the E division of a second 1,000-metre.
He finished the meet ranked 19th overall out of 31 male skaters and was seventh out of 16 junior B skaters.
Ritchie placed 25th overall for males and 10th for junior B. He was nudged and took a spill in the 500-metre and finished fourth in the F division behind his teammate.
He had another fall in the first 1,000 event and placed third in the G division. In the second 1,000 he was pushed by another skater — who was then ejected from the competition — and ended third in F division.
Both Taggart-Cox and Ritchie won medals at the 2014 Arctic Winter Games. Ritchie also represented Yukon at the 2015 Canada Winter Games as one of the three youngest skaters in the under-20 competition.
Contact Tom Patrick at firstname.lastname@example.org