The figures on the ice rink speed by in shapely ovals, sending their long skates gliding. This swift show of grace happens twice a week in our backyard, in the form of the Plymouth Wayzata Speedskating (PWSS) group.
“Sometimes hockey players need a break or figure skaters don’t want to move into learning jumps. Speed skating is a great way to keep kids on the ice,” explains Sheree Mehring, president of the PWSS.
Speed skaters tend to sort themselves into two groups: recreational skaters looking to get in shape and competitive skaters who participate in races. “It’s friendly competition,” says Maureen Brown, parent to skater Lillian Brown. “It’s a wonderful group. We really care about all our skaters.” For the skaters, Brown says, “It’s about performing at your personal best, not who is first across the line necessarily.”
Lillian, a 15 year-old who considers herself a competitive skater, smiles as she explains why she speed skates. “I like it because I get to meet cool people,” she says. “And it’s unique.”
Unique, indeed. Of the eight clubs listed as members of the Greater Minnesota Speedskating Association, most are focused on long track skating rather than short track skating, which is PWSS’s focus, though they do provide long track opportunities. “It’s sprinting versus cross-country running,” explains Kellie Petroskey, a head coach of the team. The short track is 111 meters, whereas the long track is 400 meters. Short track skating requires faster reaction time. Apolo Ohno, the gold-medal-winning Olympic speed skater, skates the short track.
Speed skating is a great sport for nearly everyone, Petroskey says. “It’s a life-long sport because it’s low impact on the body and high impact on results on the body.” The age range of the group attests to the ease of adoption; the group has had skaters as young as four to those in their sixth decade.
The coaching from head coaches Petroskey and her husband Ted—both former USFSA Gold Test skaters and competitors, and PSA ranked coaches—is supportive and individualized. As parent Susan Rafian exclaims, “I’m amazed every week” by how the coaches are able to help each member improve toward reaching their particular goals. As the mother of two speed skaters, Rafian says, “One of the things that was so appealing is that you could join anytime and bring everybody in your family to the same location at the same time.”
Dorothy Bialke, who has been speedskating for four years, first tried the sport because “my friend dared me to try it,” she says. A more recreational skater, Bialke is interested in promoting the sport to women. “It’s healthy and it helps with balance, so it feels like a natural fit for women.” She adds, “It’s never too late to start!”
Ulrich Fink first took to the ice as an adult, six months after his then 7-year-old daughter Emma first tried the sport. He had never skated before in his life.
“The first session, I fell seven times,” Fink says. “I literally missed every corner.” But seven years later, he is the PWSS vice president, and he and Emma still love the sport.
As Emma says, “It’s really a fun sport and supportive. Everyone skates. People don’t have to sit on the sidelines.” Her dad concurs: “One of our key philosophies is all ages, all skill levels, whatever competitive level the skater chooses,” Fink says.
For just $25, PWSS offers a two-session trial, which includes two skate sessions and the use of the long blade speed skates. Contact the group anytime or stop by to see them in action on Wednesday and Sunday evenings. As PWSS’s motto states, you might just be moved to “fly without leaving the ground.”
Learn more about the team here.