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Rapids skaters close out season in Calgary, Montreal

Whitehorse's Troy Henry hit top speed to finish the season last week. Whitehorse Rapids teammate Heather Clarke, not so much. Henry competed in long-track at the 2013 Olympic Oval Finale/Canada Cup 4 in Calgary last week.

Whitehorse’s Troy Henry hit top speed to finish the season last week. Whitehorse Rapids teammate Heather Clarke, not so much.

Henry competed in long-track at the 2013 Olympic Oval Finale/Canada Cup 4 in Calgary last week. Clarke raced short-track at the Canadian Short Track Championships this past weekend in Montreal.

“It was a good way to close out the season. I’m happy with that,” said Henry. “It was the longest competition of the year. It started on Wednesday and ended on Monday, so I’m pretty tired now.”

Henry was taking on skaters from around the world at the Olympic Oval in Calgary. The 23-year-old set five personal records over seven races.

Right off the bat he had a strong result, placing 12th out of 77 skaters in the 3,000-metre with a personal record of 3:55.81. He also placed second out of 42 Canadians in the event.

“I haven’t skated too many 3,000s,” said Henry. “Most of the time when I skate a 3,000, I’m using it as a training race, just to try some strategies for the 5K.”

He also set personal best times en route to placing 54th out of 183 skaters in the 500-metre at 37.27 and 20th in the 5,000-metre at 6:42.06.

Henry then came seventh out of a small field of 12 skaters in the 10,000-metre, setting a personal record of 13:57.43.

“The 5K is so long that people who aren’t good at it, don’t even sign up for it,” said Henry. “People who are good at it and want to get a good placement in the long-distance races, are usually the only who do race them.”

Henry closed out the competition, placing 41st out of 149 racers in the 1,000-metre with a time of 1:12.94 - another personal record - and 37th out of 151 in the 1,500-metre.

The 1,500 was the only race he finished without setting a personal record. But it was on the final day and Henry was one of the few to skate in every race.

“That was fatigue; I was pretty tired by the end of the week,” said Henry. “Not many people race ever race.”

Henry did not finish in the second 500-metre race at Finale.

“I ended up crashing,” said Henry. “It was the first time I fell this whole season, so that was a little unfortunate.”

Clarke placed ninth overall in the Junior A division after four events at the short-track championships.

“I didn’t have a very good weekend,” said Clarke, who fell in the 500-metre final, the 1,000-metre final and the 3,000-metre final. “It was just not a good weekend at all.

“The 1,500 I stayed on my feet. But so many thing went wrong for me and nothing was working out.”

Clarke made the B final in all four events. She raced to second in the 1,500-metre, third in the 1,000-metre and fourth in the 500-metre. Those results in the B final put her at eighth overall in each distance.

Clarke skated to fifth in the B final of the 3,000-metre for 13th overall.

“I was pretty disappointed to be in the B final for the 3K because speed-wise I felt like I should have been in the A final,” said Clarke. “I had a plan to lap the pack - the rest of the skaters - and finish the race from there. But then I fell, and if you get lapped you’re out of the race. So I got up right away and basically skated the last 20 laps on my own. I actually ended up catching a couple people - that’s why I got fifth.”

Clarke was the first Yukoner ever to medal at the event last year, winning bronze in the Junior B division.

Henry and Clarke, both of whom are members of the Calgary Oval Program, consider their seasons to have been successful ones.

“It was pretty successful,” said Henry, who was only in his second season since moving from short-track to long-track. “I got sick a couple times at the beginning of the season but I managed to get over that and have a pretty good season. So I’m happy with that.”

Henry placed 12th out of 47 skaters in the 5,000-metre for his best finish at the North American Speed Skating Championships in Salt Lake City, Utah, two weeks ago.

In previous Canada Cups this season, Henry placed ninth in the 5,000-metre last month in Quebec and seventh in the 10,000-metre in Calgary at the start of the year.

Clarke competed at two major competitions in December.

She placed 26th out of 32 skaters at the Canadian Junior Short Track Championships in Etobicoke, Ontario. She then took 16th at the National Short Track Qualifier in Quebec.

“I’m pretty happy with the season as a whole,” said Clarke. “I made a lot of improvements and I feel like I’m still making improvements all the time. I’m still learning so much.”

Clarke captured two gold and three silver at the 2012 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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