By Peyton Wright
While many are familiar with sports on ice, like hockey and figure skating, speed skating at the collegiate level is virtually impossible to find in the U.S. That may not be the case for much longer.
Colorado College is a growing hub for the sport and is home to the first college speed skating team in the country.
CC’s team, led by coach Glen Winkel, travelled to Salt Lake City at the beginning of November in order to attend the International Skating Union 2019 World Cup Competition. The student athletes were able to watch the best of the best compete and see what it takes to skate at the international level.
“Because it’s a really niche sport, [the World Cup] was really personal … I got to meet a couple U.S. skaters. We just bumped into them” said Ronan Fitzgerald ’23.
The team also was able to briefly meet Victor An, who is considered one of the best speed skaters of all time, and to watch him race.
Fitzgerald added, “Speed doesn’t translate super well on camera … like I didn’t get really quite realize [the speed] from watching [speed skating] on TV.”
The trip was an amazing opportunity, and Winkel expressed excitement beyond the entertainment value of seeing live professional skating.
“It also inspired the CC skaters to learn how to do what they watched,” Winkel said.
With this new boost of motivation, the Tigers speed skating team believes they have an opportunity to really develop this year and in upcoming seasons. Right now, their priorities are to grow in skating ability, aiming to skate safely and with ease. This foundation and constant emphasis on technique will be visible next year in competition.
“Everyone right now is focusing on their lap times … so it’s mostly personal competition,” Fitzgerald said.
He added, however, that there is some level of inner-team competition.
“There’s currently a local kid who’s like 10 who joined,” Fitzgerald said. “He’s currently the best, so everyone’s looking to beat him … but given he was No. 1 in the country for inline skates, [I] don’t know how likely that is.”
In August, some members of the team are planning to race at the first collegiate national championships, returning to Salt Lake for the first-ever Desert Classic. All speed-skaters attending college for a degree program are eligible to go, and four Tigers have already expressed interest in competing.
Racing at nationals is a big step for the program, which is hoping to draw competitive skaters to CC. Competing would allow the team to become a club sport within the department of athletics, instead of their current position as a collegiate club. The change in status would benefit the current team, and potentially draw new skaters to join the program in the future, a possibility Winkel is working to make happen.
“I’d like CC to be a school that could attract current speed skaters looking to go to college as well as compete in elite competition,” Winkel said.
He believes CC offers high-level high school skaters a great opportunity to achieve optimal training while getting a higher-level education thanks to CC’s unique class structure.
“With the block plan, skaters can take off a block or two to compete at World Cups or Olympics and still remain in college and not fall far behind in their studies,” Winkel said.
Watching the ISU World Cup was just the beginning for CC’s budding speedskating team. With Winkel’s dedication to the growth of collegiate speed skating, the Tigers could be competing at the World Cup someday.