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Jack Shea Sprints kick off oval’s speed skating season

January 23, 2018
By CHRISTIE SAUSA - Correspondent , Lake Placid News

LAKE PLACID - After the cancellation of two marathon events due to a lack of ice, the Jack Shea Sprint Championships kicked off the Lake Placid Speed Skating Club season Jan. 20-21. The meet included nearly 30 skaters from the United States and Canada, including elite skaters from prestigious clubs like the Ottawa Pacers, Gloucester Concordes and the Saratoga Winter Club.

Sprint distances are 500 meters (one lap and a straightaway) and 1,000 meters (two-and-a-half-laps) skated on a 400-meter oval. Sprints tend to be the most fun to watch, as the participants reach great speeds as they hurtle down the straight track and around corners.

Those familiar with Lake Placid and Olympic history will know the namesake of the event, Jack Shea, as the 1932 Olympic double-gold medalist in the 500- and 1,500-meter races. He was the first American to win two gold medals at an Olympic Games, and he then became part of the organizing committee that helped bring the 1980 Olympics to Lake Placid.

Article Photos

Jim Shea Sr. stands between Jack Shea Sprint Championships winners Ian Babulic, left, and Rebecca Simmons following the event Sunday, Jan. 21 at the Olympic speed skating oval in Lake Placid.
Provided photo — Christie Sausa

Jack Shea was also the patriarch of a legendary Olympic dynasty: his son Jim Shea Sr., was a 1964 Olympian in nordic combined and cross-country skiing, while his grandson Jim Shea Jr. won the gold in men's skeleton at the 2002 Winter Olympics. Jim Shea Sr. was present at the Jack Shea Sprints event to award medals and congratulate the competitors, a cherished tradition during this event.

The overall winners of the event were Rebecca Simmons, of Saratoga Springs, and Ian Babulic, of Ottawa, Ontario.

Babulic trains with the Glouchester Concordes in Ottawa. Simmons recently returned from Milwaukee, Wisconsin where she was training for the Olympic Trials. When she is not competing elsewhere, Simmons will be training in both Saratoga Springs and Lake Placid, and coaching for the Lake Placid Speed Skating Club.

"It was a fun weekend of racing in the elements - 15 mile-per-hour winds only make you tougher," Simmons said. "The second day was a little warmer and the ice was a little softer, but it was great to see so many make major improvements from the previous day. Overall a great weekend of training races!"

The Adirondack Speed Skating Club was represented by Claire Liew, who won her age category of Junior C Ladies. Her coach Tom Miller, who also officiated as the Head Clerk, felt the event was beneficial to the skaters.

"It was fun, and nice to see how (the) skaters adjusted to weather conditions," Miller said.

The weather conditions were better than usual for the frequently unpredictable climate patterns of the Adirondack Park. In speed skating, as in other timed outdoor sports, a difference in temperature and wind can result in big changes; fortunately, the weather was cooperative. Saturday's races started with stronger winds, while Sunday's temperatures were milder with little to no wind. The ice conditions were also better than expected considering the warmer temperatures.

While the Lake Placid meets can frequently boast elite competitors, the focus is often on fun and to serve as training for future national and international meets. Ottawa coach Mike Rivet felt the event balanced both factors nicely.

"(It's) always important to have a good event, (but it is) even more important to have a competition where everyone had a great time," he said. "(The officials, volunteers and organizers) aced it on all counts."

The next local speed skating meet is the Irving Jaffee Single Distance Championships Jan. 27-28. Also on the same weekend, an AmCup 2 event will be hosted in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, the second part of a series of long track meets requiring time standards for entry. Simmons and Saratoga Winter Club member Mark Yanagihara, who also coaches for the Lake Placid Speed Skating Club, will be competing, along with Claire Liew of the Adirondack Speed Skating Club and former Lake Placid Oval alums Esther Munoz, Fletcher Codd and Sydney Terpening.

For more information on Lake Placid Speed Skating Club meets, visit their website at



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