Hundreds of athletes and spectators flocked to the Cube on Saturday to watch some of the fastest speed skaters in the Western U.S.
The Cube has hosted every Western States Speed Skating Championships since 2010. Local athletes raced among the top skaters from California, Oregon, Nevada and Arizona.
Several local athletes from the Santa Clarita Speed Skating Club were able to leave their marks on their home ice.
SCSSC’s Mark Jeffries and Frank Nilsen both competed in their first races in several years. The two skaters both won their divisions while Jeffries also picked up the Masters Men’s State Champion in his first competition in 18 years.
Peter Wells also raced well and hit new personal bests in several of his races. Wells is a local regular of the Cube, who bounces back and forth between ice hockey and speed skating practice.
SCSSC President Ron Halcrow was busy for the meet, while serving as its head referee, meet director, competition steward and award presenter. Halcrow had a busy Saturday to say the least but was able to watch many of his young skaters shine, including Alex Khuong.
“Our 13-year-old, Alex Khuong, turned in a pretty fantastic time for a 13-year-old in his 500-meter race,” Halcrow said in a phone interview. “I suspect if he sticks with the sport, he’ll make the world team.”
Several groups competed in different events for a shot at Nationals.
Saturday featured a memorial race for one of the former top speed skaters in the world, Jim Minami, who died earlier this year. Minami was a Japanese-American who survived an internment camp during World War II and went on to become one of the best in the sport he loved.
The championships also featured a community race, where anyone in attendance or competing was welcomed to take the ice and race.
Halcrow was proud of his club’s performance and believes Khuong, Jeffries and Joni Steshko have shots at a national title.
“I was proud of them because they really dominated the skaters from Arizona,” Halcrow said. “They had a little problem with the Northern California skaters — they surprised us a little bit.”
While the skaters will prepare for Nationals next year, Halcrow is excited for the future of the SCSSC. Mark Jeter, a coach from Milwaukee, will join the SCSSC family in hopes to elevate the club.
“We are growing here in Santa Clarita,” Halcrow said. “We just recruited a top coach from the Milwaukee area, so we’re expecting some really good things in the next few years. We’ve turned out a few Olympians and Team World members in the past and we hope to do it again.”
Racing Group 1
• 1st / Winston Wu / Arizona
• 2nd / Rowen Yin / Northern California
• 3rd / Ethan Yin / Northern California
Racing Group 2
• 1st / Miles Jiang / Northern California
• 2nd / Eric Yang / Northern California
• 3rd / Claire Zhao / Northern California
Racing Group 3A
• 1st / Frank Nilsen / Southern California
• 2nd / Niko Lingad / Southern California
• 3rd / Brandon Lee / Southern California
Racing Group 3B
• 1st / Deb Shonack / Southern California
• 2nd / Joni Steshko / Southern California
Racing Group 4
• 1st / Olivia Jiang / Northern California
• 2nd / Peter Wells / Southern California
• 3rd / Eleanor Hsueh / Northern California
Racing Group 5
• 1st / Hengyi Zhang / Northern California
• 2nd / Alex Moriarty / Arizona
• 3rd / Roger Ji / Arizona
Racing Group 6
• 1st / Mark Jeffries / Southern California
• 2nd / Ron V Ommeren / Arizona
• 3rd / Eric Pomerleau / Southern California
Racing Group 7
• 1st / Shubh Sharma / Northern California
• 2nd / Jatier Saltier / Arizona
• 3rd / Alex Khuong / Southern California
2023 Western States Champions
• Elite Men – Shubh Sharma, Northern California
• Elite Ladies – Anoshka Rao, Northern California
• Master Men – Mark Jeffies, Southern California
• Master Ladies – Joni Steshko, Southern California
• U10 Ladies – Olivia Jiang, Northern California
• U10 Men – Peter Wells, Southern California
• Community Race Champion – Shyla Upthegrove
• Jim Minami Race Champion – Shubh Sharma