Vernon Vortex speedskater Nate Benn glides his way to first place in his age group at the B.C. Long Track Provincials in Fort St. John. (Vernon Vortex photo)

Vernon speedskater glides to podium

Nate Benn tops age group for fourth year in a row at B.C. Long Track finals in Fort St. John

Vernon Vortex Speedskating Club member Nate Benn continues to establish himself as one of B.C.’s top skaters.

Benn was in Fort St. John at the end of January for the B.C. Long Track Provincials, competing in the event for the fourth year in a row and, for the fourth straight year, he topped the podium.

Boys aged 12-to-15 that have qualifying times can attend the provincials, with the top three in their divisions continuing on to the national finals.

Benn faced stiff competition in Fort St. John. On Day 1, he won his first race but was fourth in the next one, putting him second overall after the first day.

READ MORE: Vernon Vortex speedskaters capture B.C. titles

On Day 2, Benn started by winning his 500-metre race by a large margin, so a fourth provincial crown came down to the 1,500-m event.

With the top competitors posting good times, Benn had his work cut out for him, and didn’t disappoint, winning by a margin of three seconds over the next fastest skater.

“I’m very pleased with the outcome but the best part was I got to race with my friends and have fun doing it,” said Benn, who competes at the national finals this weekend in Red Deer on the outdoor oval built for the 2019 Canada Winter Games.

Prior to Fort St. John, Benn was in Calgary with Vortex teammates Charlie McGinty and Sam and Will McDicken for the two-day Alberta Long Track competition.

READ MORE: Vernon Vortex speedskaters start new season with impressive results

Benn had two Olympic-start races. First was the 500m. Off to a great start, Benn made the leader board in a commanding second place, posting a best time as well.

Next was the 1,500m, again making the leader board but in fourth place. The second day found Benn in the 300m race, where he finished third and was in a position to earn medal with the final race, the seven-lap event, which is a tough evernt for a sprinter like Benn.

The Vortex skater finished fourth overall, missing the podium by less than 100 points, but improving his time in every event.

Skating first thing in the morning for both days was the youngest of the group, Will McDicken. Saturday had Will skating his 500- and 100m heats and finals. Surprising even himself, Will made it to the A finals for both distances. Coming in fourth in his 500m was a good start. Finishing first in his 100m was a great finish to Day 1.

Day 2 had 300 metre heats and finals and a three-lap race. Will showed up with a smile and quick feet. He bested the group coming first in his 300, and second in the three- lap to put him at the top of the division, proudly standing and accepting his gold medal.

Sam McDicken and McGinty were in the T2T13 division, skating against more experienced skaters. The boys didn’t let that waver their excitement. The first day had them skating a 500m Olympic-style race and a mass start seven-lap race. Inexperience placed them in the lower half of the field in their 500 but a second placing for Sam and third for McGinty in their seven-lap boosted their standings and spirits.

The second day brought a short distance race of 300m, which both skaters did well; their short track experience showing as Charlie came in first in his race. Last was the 1,500m race, a bit intimidating to first-time long track racers. McGinty and Sam were in the same race. Showing that their hearts were just as big as the challenge they came in third and fourth.

Overall McGinty finished 12th and Sam 21st in a field of 34 skaters.

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Vernon Vortex Speedskating Club members Sam McDicken (from left), Nate Benn, coach Tony Benn. Charlie McGinty and Will McDicken took part in the recent two-day Alberta Long Track Speed Skating finals in Calgary. (Vernon Vortex photo)

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