Rapids skater hoped for more at junior nationals

Whitehorse speed skater Heather Clarke was looking to boost her national ranking over the weekend, but falls in opening rounds made that difficult.

Whitehorse speed skater Heather Clarke was looking to boost her national ranking over the weekend, but falls in opening rounds made that difficult.

The 18-year-old member of the Whitehorse Rapids Speed Skating Club placed 26th out of 32 skaters at the Canadian Junior Short Track Championships in Etobicoke, Ontario.

“It wasn’t a super great competition for me,” said Clarke. “The first day was pretty rough.

“Things just weren’t going well for me. It just wasn’t the result I was hoping for.

“I went into the competition ranked 24th and I was hoping to move it up to top-20, maybe top-15.”

In the races on Saturday – the 1,500-metre and the 500-metre – Clarke took falls in the opening rounds. The first race of each distance determines whether a skater moves on into the top half or the bottom half of the field.

“You could be one of the best skaters, but if you fall in the first round, the best you can place after that is 17th,” explained Clarke. “So that first race is pretty important.”

After falls in the first two races in the 1,500-metre, Clarke won the last final for 27th. She then went on to take the same placement in the 500-metre after getting tangled up with another skater and falling in the opening round.

Clarke had a better day on Sunday and raced to 19th in the 1,000-metre.

“I had a tough qualifying heat. I was third, so I didn’t advance into the top half, which was frustrating again,” said Clarke. “I skated the 1,000 a little better. I finished 19th, which was a little more of what I was going for.”

She also placed 26th in the super 1,500-metre, an event in which skaters are placed in five different finals based on their previous results from the weekend.

“It was my last race and I didn’t have a lot to lose, so my coaches and I came up with a different plan,” said Clarke. “I waited a lap and then I sprinted. There was about half a lap between me and the pack for the entire race.

“It was a brutal race; it was very hard. But I kept the lead and finished ahead of everyone else.

“I finished on a good note. I left it all on the ice.”

Clarke will be back on the ice this coming weekend at Canada’s National Short-Track Qualifier in Montreal. The top 16 skaters get to compete at World Cup qualifiers in January.

“I learned some good lessons. I’m always learning and always improving, so I’m looking forward to the next competition,” said Clarke, who is a member of the Calgary Olympic Oval Program.

At the Canadian Short Track Championships in March, Clarke won bronze in the 1,500-metre event on her way to finishing fifth overall in women’s junior B (17-and-under). The bronze is the best-ever finish by a Yukon skater at the championships.

Clarke also won two gold and three silver at the Arctic Winter Games in Whitehorse. In addition to making all her A finals, she set an Arctic Games record in the junior female 777-metre event, with a time of 1:17.17.

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