Two Yukoners have skated into the new season at top speed.
Whitehorse’s Shea Hoffman and Haines Junction’s Michael Ritchie both set personal best times and reached single digits at the Western Canadian Single Distance Short Track Championships at the Richmond Oval over the weekend.
“They had some pretty good races,” said Yukon head coach Phil Hoffman. “They are both doing pretty well for early in the season.”
Shea twice reached the podium in Richmond. The 19-year-old took third out of 15 skaters in the 1,500-metre in Division 2.
He also raced to second out of nine skaters in the 3,000-metre points race.
“So there’s one guy in Shea’s race that lapped everybody and (eliminated) everybody but Shea, and so the two of them ended up half a lap apart pursuing each other,” said Phil. “Shea tried to catch back up and the other kid tried to catch Shea – tried to eliminate him. Shea was gaining ground on him and they were both just dying. It was kind of hilarious to watch because they were both going around with their tongues out.”
Shea also placed ninth in the 500-metre out of 27 Division 2 skaters. He finished in 48.049 seconds, shaving three-quarters of a second off his personal best – a sizable chuck for the short race.
Ritchie, 14, had his best result in the 1,500-metre, taking sixth in a field of 15 skaters in Division 2.
“It was a good race, it went smoothly,” said Ritchie. “Every time you get to compete with kids you don’t usually get to compete with, you have to push a little bit harder and get a better time.”
Ritchie cut 24.75 seconds off his personal best time, and then another 11.58 seconds to place ninth in another 1,500-metre the next day.
With his time of 2:38.52, Ritchie made Team Yukon’s standards for the Canada Winter Games, being held next February in Prince George, B.C.
“I think it would be a really fun experience to get to go to,” said Ritchie. “It’s just a matter of getting those times – shaving a little more off my 500.”
With Shea exceeding the age limit for Canada Games, Ritchie is currently the only Yukon skater in a good position to make Yukon’s speed skating team.
“He reached his 1,500 time that we need to have him for the Canada Winter Games,” said Phil. “We have some time standards set at 115 per cent of Canada Games records and he made that in the 1,500, for sure. We have to look at the other ones and see if we can get them faster before the Games time comes around.”
The sport’s governing body for Yukon hasn’t completed the selection process yet.
Both Shea and Ritchie represented Yukon at the Arctic Winter Games this past March in Fairbanks.
Ritchie claimed three silver and a bronze in the juvenile male division and Shea a silver and a bronze in junior male.
Fairbanks marked Shea’s fourth Arctics and seventh major Games. He also skated at the 2011 Canada Winter Games and raced in road cycling at the 2013 Canada Summer Games and the 2011 Western Canada Summer Games.
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