It’s natural to be nervous before a race but for Riley Pickrell, it’s ironic.
Crouching at the starting line of a speed skating meet is enough to unnerve the 14-year-old, who is taking his powerful stride to the 2016 B.C. Winter Games Feb. 25-28 in Penticton.
And yet the Grade 9 Claremont secondary student is so calm before a bike race he might as well be meditating. At just 14, he’s the top U17 track cyclist in the country, as he finished first overall in the six-event omnium at the 2015 Canadian Track Cycling Championship.
“If I’m on my bike, I can see before a race that my heart rate is actually below my normal [resting] rate,” Pickrell said. “I hope to get there one day with skating too.”
Pickrell is one of two Saanich teens headed to the B.C. Winter Games for short-track speed skating. The other is Casey Garrison, 14, of Reynolds secondary. Both are members of the Peninsula Speed Skating Club and, like Pickrell, Garrison is also a successful cyclist. She won gold in the U15 omnium and sprint tournament at the 2015 B.C. Track Cycling Championships.
On the ice, however, Garrison is more polished as she’s been with the sport seven years. Pickrell, meanwhile, is something of a tiger in the process of being tamed.
“I just wanted to go fast, right from the start,” he said.
As a former Saanich Minor Hockey player, Pickrell enjoyed being the fastest on the ice but the chippy, physical play in hockey was getting “annoying.”
At 13 he tried speed skating but crashing proved to be a problem. He’s now getting to a point where he finishes most races, and picking up a medal at the BCWG isn’t an unrealistic goal, said speed skating coach Dave Garrison.
“Riley has a shot, he’s very strong but it’s only his second year of competing so we don’t know what is going to happen,” he said.
Casey is after personal best times at the BCWG and a chance to gain experience in a competitive environment, she said, adding a podium spot would be wonderful.
“Speed skating is very much a technique sport, so there is always new stuff to learn,” Casey said. “Even though I have been skating for seven years, I’m still learning new things.”
Despite the fact both are 14, Casey will compete at the U16 level (the speed skating age break is June 30) and Pickrell at the U14 level.
Casey will race in two 500-metre events, a 1,500m, 200m pursuit and a 3,000m points race. Pickrell will compete in a similar schedule, the 200m, 400m, 500m, 1,200m, 1,500m, 3,000m and a points race.