eghan Everett ’03 and Penelope Lang ’03 may be skating their way to Salt Lake City this winter. After months of rigorous on- and off-ice training, they are about to face the ultimate test. But just days before the Olympic trials in mid-December, they seemed to be taking it all in stride.
|Olympic hopefuls Penelope Lang ’03 and Meghan Everett ’03 at the Saratoga Springs rink
Stride comes naturally to Everett and Lang, short-track speedskaters from Ballston Spa, N.Y., and Arlington, Mass., respectively. Lang donned her first pair of skates not long after she learned to walk. But by age five she’d decided speedskating would be more fun. “I was short and chubby and not into figure skating,” she laughs. As for Everett, she never figure-skated—in fact, she wanted to play hockey, but her parents wouldn’t let her. Her consolation prize was speedskating lessons. By the age of twelve, Everett and Lang were racing each other at New England meets, and both competed for a berth on the Olympic team in Lake Placid in 1998.
For those unfamiliar with speedskating, here’s a brief summary of the sport: In short-track skating, a handful of competitors—bent nearly double and racing head to head—skate laps around a hockey rink, which measures about 200 feet long by 100 feet wide. Long-track is a different beast: Skaters do their stuff on an oval that would comfortably accommodate two hockey rinks, and they race in pairs against the clock rather than in a small pack.
“A lot of short-track racing has to do with strategy,” Everett says. “The fastest skater might not win the race, but the smartest, fastest skater will. You try to anticipate everything and make the first move. You always have to be aware of the other skaters.” The pack skates in a tight configuration, which leaves little room for error. And if you’re talking about the shorter distances, the race is over in less than two minutes.
Last spring Everett placed third in the nationals, and in late fall she won the 1,000-meter short-track event in the American Cup. She ranked second overall in the 2000–01 American Cup and finished sixth in the 1000m time trial at the 2000 U.S. Short Track Championships. Racing against the best skaters in the country is “good preparation for the Olympic trials,” says Everett.
She and Lang admit their addiction to high-speed skating—flying like the wind, on ice. Says Lang, “I’m a very competitive person. I enjoy the challenge of giving something your all and seeing how far you can go with it.” A New York resident as of three years ago (she came to Saratoga in large part to work with coach Pat Maxwell), Lang has always wanted to go to the Olympics. “Every kid who gets started in this sport has that dream,” Lang believes.
At this fall’s American Cup meet in Saratoga, Lang—in her best competition of the year—placed fourth overall, coming in fourth in the 500m, third in the 1000m, seventh in the 1500m, and third in the 3000m. In 1999–2000 she placed sixth in the U.S. Junior Short Track Champion-ships and first in the American Cup standings. Whether or not she makes the team this time around, Lang is “almost 100 percent certain” she’ll try again in 2006.
At Skidmore Lang hasn’t yet declared a major, but is interested in pursuing neuroscience. She’s been taking a limited course load while she prepares for the Olympics, as school finals and skating trials overlap.
Everett, an exercise science major, has decided she’s going to give speedskating a rest after this year, finish up at Skidmore, and go to chiropractic school. “I love skating and I’m definitely going to miss it, but I also want to get on with my life,” she says, add-ing with a note of practicality: “You can’t make a living speedskating.” But, as Everett and Lang are well aware, you can still have a darn good time doing it. —MTS