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Jack Shea Sprints bring in racers of all ages

February 14, 2020
By CHRISTIE SAUSA - Correspondent , Lake Placid News

LAKE PLACID - The Lake Placid Speed Skating Club racing series continued Feb. 9-10 with the Jack Shea Sprint Championships attracting nearly 40 skaters from throughout the United States and Canada. In addition to 500- and 1,000-meter races both days to determine the age category and overall winners, a children's category of 100- and 600-meter races both days crowned several youth medalists.

The event was named after Jack Shea, who won two Olympic gold medals at the 1932 Lake Placid Games and is one of the legends of the Lake Placid Olympic Oval. He was the first in the Shea sporting dynasty, which continued with his son Jim Sr., who competed in Olympic Nordic combined and cross-country skiing in the 1964 Innsbruck Winter Olympics. Jim Sr's son Jim won gold in skeleton in the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. The Sheas were the first family with three generations of Winter Olympians.

Presenting medals at the event on Feb. 10 was Sarah Shea-Kane, the granddaughter of Jack and daughter of Jim, who shared her pride at being able to award medals and her happiness at seeing the speedskating tradition continue in Lake Placid.

Article Photos

Ryan Gibson skates in the 1,000-meter race during the Jack Shea Sprint Championships at the Olympic Oval in Lake Placid.
Provided photo — Christie Sausa

The overall medal winners in the ladies category were Rachel Mallard, Claire Liew and Juliette Vaillancourt. All three are from Ontario, Canada, although Liew now lives and trains in Lake Placid. Mallard was excited to win and to be back racing.

"I was really happy with my races, especially my 1,000m on Saturday, and I was able to set some outdoor personal bests," she said. "It's always great to skate in Lake Placid because everyone is so welcoming. I always have a great time here. "

Canadian skaters also swept the men's category, with Ryan Gibson, Gabriel Martin and Sam Hurtubise claiming first, second and third, respectively. Like Mallard and Vaillancourt, all train in Ontario with renowned coach Mike Rivet. The Canadian skaters make great use of the Lake Placid Oval, especially because their oval in Ottawa is natural ice whose quality and availability is not always predictable.

Ryan Gibson, a hockey player who is participating in the RBC Training Ground program in Canada, has only been speedskating for several months but has alread achieved enviable times. Scouted by Speed Skating Canada, he was chosen to compete at the National Final in Calgary in September, and was one of 30 out of 100 athletes who were selected to move on to the sport for which he was chosen: speedskating. He received funding to pursue training with Rivet in Ottawa. His first time on the long track Oval was during Rivet's Lake Placid camp in December, and his goal is to achieve the specified times set by the Calgary Oval program to join that elite group and continue training to compete internationally.

"From December, I've just been trying to get better every day," Gibson said. "I felt like I was able to translate what I've been working on in practice these last few weeks to the track and ended up coming out with four smooth races and two new personal bests this weekend."

Local Adirondack Speedskating Club members Danica Vassar, Carly Coates and Kaden Lyon won second, third, and first in their age groups, respectively. This was their first meet of the season after skating with the Adirondack Speedskating Club's Henry's Kids program.

Both Mallard and Gibson plan to return for the Heiden Challenge, the most elite event of the Lake Placid Speed Skating racing series, in which skaters must meet time standards to qualify and must skate all the distances Eric Heiden skated in his five 1980 Olympic victories. For more information on this event, including registration, go to



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