North Saanich skater among club trio off to B.C. Games

Tori Kalyniuk representing Island zone among female Under 14 speed skaters.

North Saanich speed skater Tori Kalyniuk joins her Peninsula Speed Skating Club teammates Peyton Stonehouse-Smith and Casey Garrison in Penticton next month at the B.C. Winter Games.

Tori Kalyniuk has been speed skating for six years with the Peninsula Speed Skating Club and will be representing Vancouver Island in this February’s B.C. Winter Games.

The Grade 8 student at North Saanich Middle School will make the trip to the Games in Penticton with club mates Peyton Stonehouse-Smith and Casey Garrison. The trio, in turn, will meet up with Curt Innes from the Esquimalt Speed Skating Club and alternate skater, Anna Schwarz also of the Peninsula Club.

Kalyniuk says she discovered she really enjoyed speed skating after first playing hockey on the Peninsula.

“I was originally in hockey and the only girl on my team,” she said. “But I was always the first one to reach the puck.”

Seeing she was quick on skates, her mom signed her up for speed skating — a decision she said was a good thing.

“I really enjoy speed skating.”

Kalyniuk, sporting the team’s new Kevlar uniforms at their practice last week, will compete in a variety of races — 200 metre to the co-ed relay — in the Under 14 category at the Winter Games. It’s her first Games event and she said she’s looking forward to the experience.

“I hope to be able to bring back knowledge that I can pass on to other skaters,” she said. “I’ll be able to share what it’s like (at the Games), the travel and the competition.

The Peninsula and Esquimalt clubs are the only places for speed skating on the Island and in the zone. Zone Rep. Dave Garrison, whose daughter Casey skates with Kalyniuk and will be at her second Games in the U16 category, said the team  going to Penticton is small, but will skate well. The athletes qualified for the Games in a series of time trials at the 400m distance. Now, the skaters are putting in extra workouts on Saturdays over the next seven weeks.

Casey, who has been skating for seven years, is from Saanich and got into the sport after watching events at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver. She said she enjoys new experiences and is looking forward to her second B.C. Winter Games following a trip to Mission two years ago.

“I learned there to always have fun,” she said following a Wednesday night practice at Panorama Recreation Centre. “You can make friends with people, even if they are your competitors.”

Stonehouse-Smith, who is also skating in the U14 category, is in her fifth year of speed skating. It was her friend Anna that invited the View Royal teen out to the rink. Both of their dads skate, she said, so she gave it a try.

“I think it’s great,” she said. “It’s a sport that not many people get to do.”

She added Casey is the team leader, as her teammate has been to the Games before.

“It’s going to be great to meet new people (in Penticton),” said Stonehouse-Smith.

Kalyniuk added she’s looking forward to be immersed in the Games experience — not only the racing, but the camaraderie formed by athletes in a village atmosphere.

The 2016 B.C. Winter Games takes place Feb. 25 to 28 in Penticton.

The Peninsula Speed Skating Club meets Monday and Wednesday nights. Visit peninsulaspeedskating.com for more information.