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Speed Skating Competitions and Meets

Speed Skating competitions are often called "Meets." Over the course of the season, Club members will go to as many as 8-10 competitions in short track and long track. The types of competitions vary and rarely does every skater go to all of them. Short track meets are skated on an indoor 100m oval track for younger skaters and a 111 m oval track for older skaters. Long track meets are skated on a 400m oval track, indoors or out.

Although a skater may become involved with the sport of speed skating just for the fun of it or to improve skating skills, often he or she will eventually want to put those skills to the test in a competition. As a parent suddenly confronted with the situation of entering your child in his or her first competition, what do you have to do? The first thing to do is to obtain a copy of the entry form and accurately complete it. If you need help knowing what category your child will be placed in, see the coach. If this is the first competition that your child has entered, you may not have a “best time”. Ask the coach what should be done.

Our Club meet in November is the perfect first meet for new skaters!

Athlete Funding: If you qualify to compete at national championships and/or at national ranking meets, RDCLSSC will endeavour to support your efforts to attend. A Bursary in the amount of $300.00 is offered to skaters who qualify for and attend a National Level Meet (e.g. CYST or CYLT). 

Overview of Meets

Most of the meets run in Alberta are Short Track or Long Track Ability Meets, so much of this information is specifically related to these forms of competitions, but the basics apply regardless of which discipline is being skated. If a Meet is a Qualifier for a National Competition, this will be clear in the Meet Announcement. If you hav questions, ask the Coach! 

An Ability meet format means that skaters of equal ability (as determined by submitted best times or time trials), regardless of age and gender, skate in the same races. It is critical that you submit accurate times so that your child can have a fun yet challenging group within which to race. Typically, when it comes to awarding prizes, the age and genders are sorted out. This is why it is important to include your child’s birth date.

This information will be collected through Meet Registration. Most Meets in Alberta use an online Meet Registration system with online payment. Parents may be asked for Seed Times (e.g. your skater's best 200m Short Track or 400m Long Track times) during registration but these times will be verified with the Coach. If you do not know a seed time, don't worry. 

Race Day

On race day, arrive early so that your child can register with the hosting club (if required), check-in with the coach, find the correct dressing room, do stretching exercises and be ready to be on the ice in time for warm-up (if your child is skating early in the program). The coach will typically advise each skater when he or she will be racing, but as a parent, you can help by finding the schedule (which is usually posted on the wall or emailed in advance) and by making sure that your skater is aware of the time when he or she should begin to prepare for their next race. Race results are usually posted on a wall in a place accessible to everyone. At first glance, especially for a parent new to the sport, the results don’t seem to make a lot of sense. While times are taken, it is the finish place that is important in a short track meet.

In an Ability meet, skaters are put into several heats with 5 or 6 skaters in each heat. Meets typically consist of a heat and final at each distance the skater is racing. The Meet Recorder will assign skaters to a heat based on their best times at previous meets or based on their seed times or randomly. The method used to distribute the skaters is designed to ensure that all the top skaters do not end up in the same heat. All skaters then will race in a final at each distance determined by how they placed in their heat. Winners of each heat are guaranteed to be in the “A” final, with times and/or position determining placement in the remaining heats (e.g. fastest 2nd place skater). If there are 5 Heats and the race has 5 skaters on the start line, the advancement will be 1+0 (the winner of each Heat will advance to the A Final and the other skaters will skate in the B, C, or D finals depending on their times and places). If there were 4 Heats and 5 Skaters on the start line, the advancement would be 1+1 (the four Heat Winners + 1 skater -- the fasted 2nd place finisher from the heats). 

In the finals each skater is awarded points based upon his or her final position at each distance skated. The important thing to remember is that the skater finishing last in the “A” final will earn more points than the winner of the “B” final and so on through the finals. The aggregate point total for all final races determines the overall meet results for each skater.

Time and points will generally be posted but sometimes only place and points will be shown. While the volunteers do their best to be accurate, occasionally an error will occur. If you find an error or have any other concerns talk to your coach. Do not take your problem or questions to the referees or other officials, and do not enter the Results or Meet Office. Office volunteers, including the Meet Recorder, are trying very hard to record all information as quickly and as correctly as they can. Interruptions just increase their chance of making an error or causing a delay in the meet because they have been delayed in preparing the new heat cards. Your Coach is your contact at the Meet -- ask them and they will take your concern forward. 

Remember that not every skater can finish first. Before getting to a meet, you should discuss with your child what goals he or she has set for the races. It can be anything from staying on his or her feet through all the races, to shaving specific time off personal bests in a given distance, to doing at least one inside pass in a competition situation. As a parent, you should understand what skills your child wants to improve and then you can provide appropriate encouragement and support throughout the meet.

Finally, encourage your skater to maintain his or her area in the dressing room in a tidy condition. All skating equipment should be stored in a single spot – preferably in his or her equipment bag. Remember, everyone has similar equipment, so your child’s equipment should be labeled with his or her name. Garbage should be thrown into the appropriate containers and the room should be left in good condition. It is everyone’s responsibility at the end of the meet to ensure the there is no garbage lying on the floor and nothing is left behind.

Many clubs are small and do not always have enough volunteers to run a meet smoothly. If you, as a parent, are asked to lend a hand, don’t worry if you don’t know much about the sport. There are others who will willingly teach you the basics and your help will be greatly appreciated. So, go ahead….volunteer. It’s Fun!

Long Track Meets

For long track meets, skin suits are desirable but any close-fitting clothing will suffice. Under the skin suits, skaters usually wear (long) underwear of some sort. Underwear that whisks away moisture (LIFA, for instance) is the best. Aside from that, warm mitts are usually a good idea, as well as sports glasses to protect the eyes from ice, snow and wind. For many skaters, a warm-up suit is also a very good idea, as it allows for longer warm-ups and more comfort during the pre-race time period.

At practices, the situation is a bit different. Aerodynamics are not quite as important and warmth becomes a more critical issue. Dressing in layers is highly recommended. For the upper body, that should include a full set of underwear, another shirt or sweater, and a windbreaker of some sort. A neck gator or other face protector often helps. For the legs, a warm pair of tights with long underwear underneath is a good idea. On the feet, boot covers provide extra warmth on cold nights. These can be purchased from the Club or at most major meets.

Short Track Meets

For short trackers, the situation is both simpler and more complex. What one wears at practice is usually very similar to what one wears at races only at practices one tends to wear something over the skin suit to provide extra warmth.

Ability Meets

An ability meet pits skaters of equal ability against each other in a mass start format (up to 6 skaters racing at once). Thus, it is very important that seed times be accurate. Seed times are personal bests (PBs) for a skater in a given distance. If you are ever asked for a seed time on a meet entry form and you don’t know what to put, ask your coach. DO NOT put in a time that has not been skated.

Ability meets feature an equal number of races for all participants. They usually award medals based on accumulated points with respect to other skaters in a given age class, even though a given skater may not be racing against other members of their age class. Ranking is based upon higher ability levels being awarded higher numbers of points for their finishing positions.

Age Class Meets

At age class meets, skaters race against others in their own age class; they are further divided into A and B skill level groupings. Some provincial and national age class championships run on this mass start format. Each skater races four distances (pre-determined for their age class) at each age class meet. Whether they race more than four times depends on whether there are enough competitors to warrant heats and semi-finals.

Skaters are grouped according to their seed times. The majority of meets in Alberta are Ability meets. If you are ever unsure about where you or your child should be classified, please consult one of the coaches on this matter well before a meet.

Mass Start

This form of racing, used in both short and long track, has up to six skaters race against each other on a single lane/track.

Olympic Style

This is a style of long track racing where two skaters race in separate lanes, at the same time, against each other and the clock. Each skater stays in his or her own lane, crossing over to the other lane at a predetermined point on the backstretch of each lap (to make the distances traveled equal). Ranking is based on finish times for all competitors (i.e. a skater who wins his or her pairing might come in 3rd overall).

Required Equipment for Short Track & Long Track Skaters

Speed Skating Canada requires protective equipment for skaters in both Short and Long Track competitions. Skaters found without this equipment will be disqualified.

  • a hard-shell speed skating helmet
  • a neck protector (bib type)
  • non-woven mitts or gloves (must be cut resistant)
  • knee pads
  • shin guards
  • ankle guards
  • protective eyewear with elastic band

What to Pack in your Equipment Bag

Wherever you travel for speed skating, you should carry certain things to support your efforts. Besides the equipment and clothing listed above, you should also stow:

  • a rag for drying off your skates after each use
  • hard and soft (booties) skate guards to protect your blades
  • a sharpening jig (your own or the Club’s)
  • sharpening stones and deburring stones
  • extra socks, skin suits, laces, and a hair dryer in case of falls (short track is wet!)
  • personal medical information
  • reading material and games
  • nutritious snacks

On Meet Day

  • Be at the arena in plenty of time. Warm-up is normally very early and is not of much value if you are skating later in the day. For some skaters, however, getting onto the ice early helps to calm the butterflies.
  • Check in right away with your coach(es).
  • Get a Program of Events and note / mark the races that you will be competing in.
  • Find the locker room assigned to our Club or go to the bleacher area where other Club members are gathering.
  • About five or six races before your race, have your skates on and report to the Clerk of the Course.
  • You will then be asked to wait with the other skaters in your race. There you will find out your position on the start line.
  • After a race, get off the ice as quickly as possible, return to the locker room / bleachers, remove and wipe down your skates, and wait for the next race.

Pre-Competition Warm-Up

Skaters should arrive in time for their scheduled warm-up laps. This will be listed on the Schedule sent out to the Club before each Meet. Recommended pre-competition warm-ups include:

  • 4 quicker laps
  • pivot inside turn
  • accelerations
  • starts
  • Games: agility games, jumps, slalom, sculling, spinning, one leg, backwards, etc.