Wren Acorn was hoping to score herself a top-15 finish at the Canada Cup Short Track 2 event in Sherbrooke, Que., this past weekend.
She got it … and then some.
Acorn ended up finishing seventh overall when the points were tallied following the completion of action on Feb. 9, amassing 8,993 points. Her results included a third-place finish in the 1,500-metre, which was the first time Acorn had medaled at a national event.
“I finished a lot better than I expected,” said Acorn. “I did have some doubt because there were so many good skaters in Sherbrooke but I wanted to qualify for the next meet.”
That next meet would either be the Canada Cup Final in Calgary or the Canada Cup Junior Final in Richmond, B.C., all dependent on where she finished.
“I spoke with Dustin Miller, one of my coaches, and I asked him what was expected of me,” said Acorn. “He was unsure of how many people moved forward but if I made my first two advancements (win qualifying and heat race), a top-15 was guaranteed so seventh was a heck of an improvement.”
The 1,500-metre race was up first and Acorn got off to the best start possible, winning both her qualification race to start, followed by her heat, which got her through to the semifinal. The top three from each of those two races would advance to the final and Acorn did just that, finishing third in her race.
In the final, Acorn said she worked on conserving energy for as long as possible, something she had prepared for leading up to Sherbrooke.
“I’ve always been strong in that but I needed to concentrate on pushing at the end when the other competitors die off,” she said. “If I’m not settled, that makes the push at the end tougher because I’m trying to overcompensate. I didn’t want to feel as if I had to move when everyone else did and just set myself up.”
From there, it was off to the 500-metre race, a distance which Acorn said she usually finished in around 20th to 22nd overall on average but it went a lot better in Sherbrooke.
Just like the 1,500-metre, she said she had been working on different things to make sure she was in with a chance, including working with a sports psychologist.
“The psychologist helped in getting me to bring my excitement level down,” she said. “If you have jitters, that means you’re jumping off of the line and the adrenaline is there. I worked on making sure I kept myself calm off the start and if it didn’t go my way, not to panic because you start making dumb moves. It was all about staying calm and focused.”
Acorn would advance out of her qualification race and her heat but finished fourth in her quarter-final race, meaning she wouldn’t advance to the A final. She won her C semifinal race, which put her in the C final, where she finished second, equaling a 10th place overall.
The 1,000-metre wrapped things up and it was a case of simply being in the wrong race at the wrong time for Acorn. She finished second in her qualification race, which put her into the heats and it would turn out to be the fastest race of them all.
The problem was Acorn was the slowest of that fast bunch and failed to advance to the next round, even though her time of 1:34.431 was the fifth-fastest time of the heats and faster than anyone of the top three in any other heat. In fact, less than five-tenths of a second separated first from fifth but only the top two from each race and the three fastest third-place times moved on to the quarter-final.
“They don’t place skaters into heats based on times and it happens sometimes that you get five really fast skaters in one race,” said Acorn. “It tends to make the next round not as even and I just ended up in a race that could have been a final in any other event. I would have had a better chance to move up if it had been a better set-up.”
With Sherbrooke now over, the focus turns to next month in Calgary, where Acorn will be racing on home ice at the Olympic Oval but she knows she will no longer be just one of the gang racing.
“I’m becoming one of the ones to watch, for sure,” she said. “I’ve earned the right to be confident and the other skaters are seeing me now as one of the big players.”