Speedskating has always been a sport where the NWT has excelled at and if all goes well tomorrow, it could be a big highlight for Team NT.
Yellowknife’s Wren Acorn will be in the semifinals of the girls 1,500-metre event at the Canada Winter Games in Red Deer, Alta., after winning through her heat and quarter-final races earlier today. She advanced to the semifinal after having one of the best fourth place times in her quarter-final race.
Shane Clark, head coach of the speedskating team, said Acorn skated two very solid races on day one of competition for the speedskaters.
“She was very focused,” he said. “She took control of her first heat and managed to skate herself out of trouble and steered clear of any sort of pushing.”
Acorn won her heat in a time of 2:36.350, six-tenths better than the runner-up from B.C. From there, it was off to the quarter-final in a race which was almost a haves and have-nots or sorts. Acorn was part of a group of four skaters from Quebec, Alberta and B.C. which separated itself from the other four and took control of the race.
She finished fourth but since it was considered a 3+3 race, where the top three skaters from each heat would be joined by the three best overall fourth-placed times, her time of 2:31.918 was good enough to see her through.
“It was a very quick pace the entire race and it was one of her best races she’s had,” said Clark. “Wren raced a very controlled pace and I think those top four were put together to make sure they all got through. All Wren had to do was avoid any sort of penalty because if you’re penalized, that’s it for you in that distance.”
Daphne Cloutier of Yellowknife was also racing in the girls 1,500-metre heats but was unable to advance to the semifinals automatically. She’ll be in the repechage races tomorrow morning, where she’ll still have a chance to make it into the semifinals.
“It’s still a possibility but I think Daphne is looking to get into a higher event at the end of the day,” said Clark.
As for the boys, all five of them – the Inuvik trio of Stryden Hult-Griffin, Braeden Picek and Dalton McLeod along with the Yellowknife duo of Lance Dizon and Sylvain Rourke – all failed to get to the semifinals directly and will race in the repechage with the hopes of getting in.
Clark said Picek advanced to the quarter-final round by having a good enough time in his heat but he fell victim to bad circumstance in his quarter-final.
“He was on the wrong end of a tight corner and he spilled out,” he said. “There was no penalty called by the officials so they felt no one did anything wrong. It was more a matter of just too many skaters.”
Picek was given a finish but no official time.
The 500-metre heats were also held today with all of the skaters going to the repechage races, which are happening on Wednesday.