Rapids skater picks up the pace in Quebec

Whitehorse speedskater Heather Clarke arrived in Drummondville, Quebec, with a specific goal in mind and she achieved it.

Whitehorse speedskater Heather Clarke arrived in Drummondville, Quebec, with a specific goal in mind and she achieved it.

The 18-year-old broke into the top-half of the field in an event at the National Short Track Qualifier over the weekend, after failing to do so the previous weekend at the junior nationals.

Clarke, a member of the Whitehorse Rapids Speed Skating Club, raced to 16th out of 32 skaters in the 500-metre.

“That was my goal for the weekend: the get into the top half in at least one of the distances,” said Clarke.

That result helped Clark finish 23rd overall out of 32 of Canada’s best junior speedskaters.

The previous weekend, Clarke placed 26th out of 32 skaters at the Canadian Junior Short Track Championships, an event she went into ranked 31st in Canada.

“I’m pretty happy with that, to move up from (ranked) 31st, going into 23rd at the end was pretty good,” said Clarke.

Clarke also placed 24th in the 1,500-metre event. She found herself up against nine other skaters in the final. It took three starts for the race to take place because of falls in which skaters took out many of their competitors.

Clarke placed sixth out of the 10 in the final.

“There were 10 of us in that race and it was just crazy,” said Clarke. “There was 10 of us and it was quite scary – lots of blades out there.”

The first heats in each event decide which skaters are in the top 16 of the field and which are in the bottom 16. A tough opening heat can make it impossible to finish in the top half.

Clarke placed 26th in the 1,000-metre after facing some speedy competition in the opening heat.

“I had a really tough heat with two other girls from my program (the Calgary Olympic Oval Program),” said Clarke. “I’m in Group 2 training in Calgary, and then there’s Group 1, which is a little bit of a higher level and both of these girls are from that group. And there was another girl that was pretty fast. So I did not qualify into the top half.

“I was 26th in the 1,000 overall, which is not super great, but I’m happy with how I skated the 1,000.”

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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