Nearly 40 competitors were on hand Saturday morning to compete in the 22nd annual Capital City Speed Skating Championships at Washington Park Ice Arena.
The skaters came from Jefferson City, St. Louis and Kansas City area. With the Winter Olympics approaching in February, meet officials said they usually get a resurgence in people interested in the sport.
The meet attracts a wide variety of competitors, from beginning speed skaters to older skaters. Previous Capital City Championships have drawn skaters who went on to compete for the United States team in international speed skating events, including the Olympics.
"We've got skaters who range in age from 5-55," said Paul Rudder, co-director of the Jefferson City Speed Skating Club. "The fact that this is a family sport is what makes it so attractive to people. The kids come out to compete, and many times, their parents compete in master classes."
While there were some competitors from the Jefferson City club Saturday, Rudder said the majority — about 30 skaters — came from St. Louis, which is considered the heart of speed skating in the Midwest.
"Partnering with the Jefferson City Parks and Recreation Department, we practice every Tuesday afternoon and on Sundays," Rudder said.
Just like with any sport, he said there is a learning curve.
"Kids get out there and skate and typically they can just barely make it around their first time out on the ice," he said. "As they work on it, they can attain pretty good speeds.
"Speed skating can get hazardous when kids get in the 16-17 age range because they are approaching 25 mph and skating on a 1,100-meter track, which is the typical size of a hockey rink. When you're going that fast, it takes a lot of skill not to run into the boards."
Unlike running or jogging, Rudder said speed skating is more of an aerobic sport.
"It's low impact, and you can skate a lot of laps fairly smooth," he said. "It's rhythmic and easy on the joints."
This is the first meet of the skating season in Missouri. The season runs through March when the national competition takes place.
For final results of Saturday's championships, as well as practice schedules and additional information about the Jefferson City Speed Skating Club, visit jcssc.org.