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Rapids skater speeds to fifth in Medicine Hat

Shea Hoffman opened the speedskating season on the right skate.

Shea Hoffman opened the speedskating season on the right skate.

The 17-year-old member of the Whitehorse Rapids Speed Skating Club placed fifth overall out of 13 skaters in the junior A mixed division of the Medicine Hat Short Track Ability Meet over the weekend.

Up against skaters from Calgary, Edmonton, Lethbridge, Lloydminster and Canmore, Hoffman made three out of four A finals. He was the top finisher behind the powerhouse skaters from Calgary, the home of the National Training Centre.

Hoffman’s performance in the 500-metre event stands out. He logged a personal best time of 48.94 seconds and took second place in the event.

Not bad for so early in the season.

“It was probably the second time I’ve done it this year - like once in practice and the first I’ve really done well in it other than here (in Whitehorse),” said Hoffman.

Hoffman also placed fourth in the 1,500-metre with a time of 2:45.48 and fifth in the 3,000-metre with a time of 5:34.78.

“It’s the fastest I’ve had this year,” said Hoffman. “I didn’t get personal bests in any of the other ones that I’m aware of, but some of them are really fast though.”

He did not qualify for the 1,000-metre finals, posting a time of 1:48.48.

“It was good for the first competition of the year,” said Phil Hoffman, Rapids head coach and Shea’s father. “Especially since we haven’t been on the ice all that long compared to other places. They were pretty good races for him, especially getting a personal best in the 500 right away.

“The longer races tend to be strategy races, so it’s often pretty hard to improve your time in those ones ... You often start off kind of slow where people are doing strategy rather than going for a time.”

Shea has competed in the last three Arctic Winter Games for Team Yukon, winning a bronze in 2008. He also represented the Yukon at the 2011 Canada Winter Games and won three silver at the Yukon Speed Skating Championships in April.

In the off-season Shea trades his skates for wheels. He cycled for Team Yukon at the 2011 Western Canada Summer Games in Kamloops, B.C., and took first for youth men in the Tour of Juneau bike race this past August.

The Rapids club is hosting a Skate-a-Thon fundraiser for the Kids Recreation Fund this Sunday at the Games Centre.

It is the club’s way of giving back to the community after the club raised more than $100,000 to replace their safety mats destroyed by a fire at the Canada Games Centre in June 2011.

“The Kids Rec Fund benefits so many young athletes throughout the Yukon that we thought we could help them out with their fundraising,” said Rapids president Malcolm Taggart in a media release.

“The community helped us out tremendously after we lost our safety mats in the Canada Games Centre fire, so we thought that it was time that we gave something back.”

At the fundraiser people can pledge money towards skaters, based on how many laps they can complete in a set amount of time. It is also a chance for people to try speedskating. If you have skates, bring them, if you don’t, the club will try to supply them.

The fundraiser will run from 2:45 until 4 p.m. on the ATCO ice at the Games Centre.

For more information, contact Laini Klassen at 668-3384.

Contact Tom Patrick at