Valley Inline Speed Skating Club Makes Its Mark at 2024 National Championships
A team of seven speed skaters from the Valley Inline Speed Skating club has returned from the 2024 National Championships in Blenheim, with somewhat heavier luggage than when they left town, having bagged their fair share of medals and trophies.
The only active speed skating club in the Wellington area made its mark across a variety of race events, coming in as the 4th top club in the country when the competition finished on Saturday afternoon. Up against a number of clubs (some with two or three times as many competing skaters), they showed that regardless of this, they have a great deal of strength in their team of seven.
The Senior Women’s team of Georgia Hurley and Ocean Woolley had one of their best Nationals yet, with Hurley winning gold in a clean sweep of all eight events across the grade. This included the 10k points race, during which Hurley displayed consistently impressive strength up against her main competition, teammate Woolley (who took the bronze) and South Canterbury’s Shannell Wooding (silver).
Hurley also picked up a bronze in the open (15 and over) women’s 5k indoor on the Flat Track and won the overall Senior Women’s aggregate trophy. Woolley took three bronze medals on the Road, one being for the 10k points.
Another well-deserved 3rd place on the podium was for the 15k elimination race, up against Junior Women’s aggregate winner, Blenheim’s Erin Green (first). On the Flat Track, Woolley came away with four second placings which together with Hurley’s wins, resulted in several instances of the closest thing to a “full club podium” when you have only two skaters!
Veteran skater Phillip King brought home four silver and two bronze medals across all the events. King skated consistently well throughout the championships, snatching several well-timed passes on the track. Newly established in New Zealand this year, the Veteran Men’s grade split the Master’s Men’s grade into two, creating better matched competition across the two new groups.
King’s daughter Michaela competed strongly in a tough grade, sitting around the middle of the group in the Cadet Girl’s grade. King was particularly strong in the longer events, showing her determination and stamina as she fought amongst the pack.
Fellow Cadet skater, Storm Woolley, also raced well at his first Nationals since returning from a break of several years away from the sport. Woolley, together with teammate Lucas Huang, battled hard to score the bronze in the Junior Boy’s 3000m Team’s relay, snatching it by a wheel from the Mt Wellington team.
Huang showed his skills as a sprinter, also winning bronze and silver in the Road and Flat Track time-trial events respectively. This was Huang’s first year in the Juvenile Boy’s grade, and the tenacity he displayed in this competition was evident and will undoubtedly serve him well in future.
His younger sister Melody Huang skated in the Primary Girl’s grade in her first ever Nationals and proved once again that just because you are small doesn’t mean you can’t go fast. She achieved a number of top 4 and 5 placings in a field of 10 skaters.
The Club’s younger skaters will be worth keeping an eye on as they get older and gain more experience with their racing.
The final events of the week were the Junior (under 15) half-marathons and Senior full marathons, which were held at Blenheim’s go-kart track on Sunday, under clear skies and probably more sunshine than is ideal for such a race.
Cadets Michaela King and Storm Woolley both completed their respective half marathons (a first for King), while Seniors Woolley and Hurley skated the full women’s marathon, coming second and third respectively, only slightly behind Blenheim’s Erin Green who took the gold.
Seniors Hurley and Woolley have both been selected for the 2024 NZ Oceania Team and will be competing against Australia at the Oceania Championships over Easter week.
The next event in the National Championships calendar is the ‘Banked Track’ which will be held in Hamilton over Waitangi Weekend. A small team of skaters from Valley Inline will be participating.