BOW VALLEY – It was damn cold outside, but local speed skaters weathered biting subzero temperatures to qualify for a national competition coming to Alberta.
Banff/Canmore Speed Skating’s Finn Borstmayer and Lili Wilz are ready for all comers and all elements this weekend (Feb. 8-9) when the 2020 Canadian Youth Long Track Championships comes to the Setters Place Oval in Red Deer, Alta.
It’s the first time Borstmayer and Wilz will race at the national competition for skaters aged 11 to 15, taking place outdoors on a 400-metre oval ice track.
“It’s my first year racing [long track] too, so I’m happy with that,” said the 15-year-old Borstmayer.
“It’s really exciting,” said Wilz, 14. “It’s a good opportunity because all my friends speed skate as well, so it’s a good opportunity to go and see everybody; it’s just really going to be fun.”
On Sunday (Feb. 2), the two teenagers tested their speed in club races inside the Thelma Crowe arena at the Canmore Rec Centre, but they have familiarity racing at the outdoor oval this season, having competed at the Jeremy Wotherspoon Open in mid-January in the national qualifier. Borstmayer finished second in his category and Wilz was fourth.
The fast teens blazed through the January races, but they didn’t have warm thoughts of the competition that happened during the coldest stretch of 2020 so far.
“It was freezing, it was like minus 40 C with the wind chill,” said Wilz.
“You couldn’t have any skin showing or you’d get frostbite and you couldn’t really wear glasses either because they’d fog up so you had to wear ski goggles, stuff like that.”
Wearing a facemask and in his second ever long track race, Borstmayer said the cold threw him off his game and it was a challenge to keep his pace up.
“It was hard to bundle up and keep aerodynamics and not lose too much time based on all the layers you’re wearing,” he said.
Luckily for competitors – and spectators - temperatures in Red Deer this weekend will be in the -3 C to -5 C range, according to the Weather Network.
Over the two days, skaters have four individual races (300-metre, 500m, 1,500m, and 3-kilometre), plus two team relays with winners being awarded in individual races and overall scores.
As a short track specialst, Wilz said she isn't overthinking the upcoming races, while Borstmayer will see how things play out on the oval.
"I definitely have some distances I prefer and would like to be better at like the 1,500, and the seven lapper (three-km) maybe, I personally think I'm better at distance stuff than the sprints," he said.