Parkite Casey Dawson gets taste of World Cup after lacing up with U.S. speedskating team
Long Track speedskater Casey Dawson hasn’t achieved his goal of competing for the U.S. speedskating team yet, but the other day he got to try it on for size.
The junior at Park City High School was selected as an alternate for the International Skating Union’s World Cup race in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Dec. 10. He got to suit up for the team for the races, and if someone was ill or injured, he would have taken their place.
“Actually having that experience was pretty cool,” he said. “To know that just last year I was watching the World Cup from the stands and now I’m on the team … Pretty surreal.”
Dawson started speedskating in 2010, after going through the Youth Sports Alliance’s Get out and Play program that featured the sport in elementary school.
“At the end of the six weeks, they bring in a speed skater,” said Tami Dawson, his mom. “He finished that hour class, and he came running up to me, and I can still feel that face, he was yelling ‘Sign me up, Mom! Sign me up!’”
After that, his parents signed him up at classes with the Park City Speed Skating Club, and his other athletic interests – soccer and cross-country skiing – started to fall by the wayside. Then, when he was 13, he earned a spot at the World Junior Speed Skating Qualifiers.
“He just had a really good time, and I think that was the turning point,” Tami said.
“Definitely after that, I started to get more competitive and went to more competitions,” he said.
Casey said the major difference between the sports was the people involved. Speedskating was a community he felt close to, and that’s why he said he’s never felt like giving it up.
“It’s just the family I created with the other skaters, is what keeps me going,” he said. “It’s better than most friends at school; it’s a bond with the sport that keeps me going.”
When he’s not on the track, Dawson goes back to life as a teenager — chocolate chip pancakes for breakfast (with protein, of course), enjoying the new freedom of driving (though he isn’t allowed to drive through West Valley at night after practice). At school, after morning practice, he enjoys computer science and robotics.
“I help out with programming for that,” he said.”Like ideas on what to do, how to move one part of the robot, how to clean up the code and all that. … It’s nice to share ideas with other people and see how they’re thinking.”
He’s also a fan of physics, which he said sometimes helps him better understand his sport.
Going through curves at 30 or 40 miles per hour, Dawson has to lean into his skates to counteract the forces on his body and skates.
Unlike other students, if he gets his calculations wrong, he falls, which can be dangerous.
“I’ve seen injuries as bad as people breaking their leg and cutting themselves,” he said, though he added that fortunately he’s never had a bad fall.
To keep the chance of falling low, he said racers have to start their competitions by putting the possibility of falling out of their mind entirely.
“Every race you have to get yourself in a state of mind that you’re not going to fall, and you have to keep on skating even if you slip,” he said. “You just have to get yourself in the mindset of not falling, then you’ll be fine.”
Tami said it was an unanticipated turn in her son’s life to watch him excel at speedskating, but over the years, it has come to seem right.
“This was just a really outlier sport we knew nothing about, so we have sort of grown into it with him,” she said. “He just really has fun with it and as a parent how can you not love that? It just fits. It’s a natural complement to who he is.”
Come January, he will take another shot at going to the World Junior Speed Skating Championships, starting with a qualifier. Last year, he missed going to the championships by a single position, but this year, he said many of his competitors have aged out of his group.
In time, he hopes to keep the jersey that was his to wear for a couple days in December. Faring well at Junior Worlds would be a big step toward that.
“I’m definitely noticing that I’m getting up there and that If I keep on going at this rate I will be at their level someday,” he said, reflecting on his time sitting with the National team. “Good to know that I’m improving.”
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